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“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master,” says Norwegian politician Christian Lous Lange (1930, no page). Indeed, technological progress made a step forward in humans’ civilization, changed people’s lives and brought new innovations. Virtual reality, as a part of this progress, gave an opportunity to have a look at the world built on imagination with a possibility to be involved in all actions happening there. Computers, PlayStations and other gaming platforms allowing people to interact with a virtual gaming world are becoming popular today, especially among children. Definitely, some video games positively impact on children’s learning skills at schools or colleges, even showing better results in their education. However, these games are one of the controversial issues existing presently. On the level with researchers revealed positive sides of virtual gaming, there have been conducted many other types of research, which discovered some negative effects caused by virtual games.
On the one hand, the positive effects of digital games can be linked with an academic education of children. These games can teach young people some subjects at schools or universities, for example, algebra and geometry (Corbett et al., 2001). One of the reasons for this can be that children act actively while playing video games instead of just listening or watching, which make computer games good teachers. Moreover, a practice of video games for educational purposes may be helpful for migrant children. There are several reasons for this such as the possibility to change languages, an opportunity to repeat tasks which were difficult for international students and other reasons. For instance, this practice was successfully used by the Pennsylvania Department of Migrant Education to teach international students (Winograd, 2001).
Turning to the negative effects, a serious concern about digital games attributes to violent games, which are gaining popularity among children, whereas educational and challenging games are becoming less popular. Perhaps the most problematic issue connected to the violence in games is the formation of aggression in children’s behavior. According to Park (2014), new research has proven that those children who are addicted to sit hours playing video games are more likely to act themselves in a hostile way than those who are far from spending lots of time in front of gaming platforms. Shooting at people and killing them, acts of stealing and kidnapping, and a clear vision of bleeding profusely – all these factors are responsible for the appearance of kids’ aggressive attitude towards other people. But aggressiveness is not only problem. Other behavioral problems are also caused by violent games such as making some actions normal whereas they are abnormal. For instance, well-known game “Grand Theft Auto” gives a clear vision of actions which are terrible in reality, such as hiring prostitutes and murdering them to take money back, killing pedestrians by driving on the sidewalk in GTA world, carrying out an attack on people randomly and others (Wendling, 2014). In fact, the history shows that over 125 million of duplicates of GTA were sold which makes this game one of the best sellers (Video Game Sales Wiki, 2013). Additionally, demented activities in some video games are awarded with virtual money, reputation and some points, which can spur on children to realize abnormal and even criminal actions in real world. In 2013 two girls from Italy murdered one man and stole his money and then told the police that they felt as playing GTA while committing the crime (Corriere Della Sera, 2013).
There can be observed other negative effects too related to behavioral problems caused by violent games. More studies should be undertaken to analyze all these effects in order to minimize negative consequences carried by them. Similarly, we have to concern about non-behavioral effects of virtual games on children as well. First of all, video games lead to deterioration of children’s social skills. According to studies made by a group of specialists, there was found that children addicted to playing games displayed a lower level of social skills compared to normal students (Zamani et al., 2010). The reason for this can be that young people devote their free time to video games instead of talking with coevals and friends, which, obviously, arouses different troubles with communication. The research concluded that children having exposure to playing games avoid communicative relations (Zamani et al., 2010). The explanation concerning why children continuously play video games was given in the research: video games are more enjoyable, inform about others, help some children to feel themselves not alone, somehow make children forgotten about existing problems, and video games give an opportunity to participate in game actively and directly (Zamani et al., 2010). Social skills are important in the formation of individuals since relationships and interactions with other people built on communication are pivotal. However, negative effects of video games on children’s social skills continue to worry the majority of people, especially parents.
Furthermore, health problems caused by video games are one of the major problems to concern about. Since children may seat sufficient time controller-in-hand, they spend less time on physical activities. Hence, obesity may be a great threat to their health problems. Accordingly, one research indicated that children who play virtual games more than 1.5 hours are more inclined to have obesity problems than those who spend less than 1.5 hours (Rehbein et al., 2010). In addition, vision problems triggered by sitting hours in front of the monitor may serve as another example for health-related problems about video games. Parts of the eye such as pupil, cornea, and iris are vulnerable for long viewing on electronic devices, contributing to eye strain (Gillespie, 2002). Thus, this may have negative outcomes such as deterioration of children’s vision. Another example of health problem caused by computer games is an epileptic seizure. That is why all video game industries are obliged to have epilepsy warnings on goods they produced in order to prevent this illness. There are more health problems triggered by video games, especially, among children as “developing” population, since they have recently started their growth in both physical and mental characteristics.
In conclusion, technology is not a good or bad invention, it depends on people in what way they use it. Similarly, virtual games have many positive effects in education even giving a better performance of students in academia. Many types of research have proven that interactive computer games are good teachers and may be helpful for migrant students, because of an active interaction with the virtual gaming world, language changing possibilities for international students and repetitiveness of tasks. However, other researchers have shown that violent games may cause some behavioral and non-behavioral problems, which represent a great danger for young people. Behavioral problems include aggressiveness in children, caused by violent actions in the game and non-behavioral problems include deterioration of children’s social skills, as a result of lack of communication. Additionally, health-related problems are also one of the negative effects of video games. Illnesses such as the deterioration of the eyesight, caused by an extensive viewing of the monitor, obesity, which is triggered by a lack of physical activity, epileptic seizure, and many other health problems, are things which needed to be concerned about by everyone. Finally, even though video games have more bad consequences on children rather than positives, with an effort to get rid of negative effects we should save positive effects of video games.