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The Problem:
“Many researchers believe that excessive (video) gaming before age 21 or 22 can physically rewire the brain.”
NeurologyNow, June/July. 2014, p.32.

A global marketing research firm recently found that nine out of ten children play video games. Some start with a keyboard or smartphone before speaking in sentences. Scientists have warned us that video games only stimulate brain regions that control vision and movement, the other parts of the brain responsible for behavior, emotion, and learning could become underdeveloped. Researchers in China found that gamers who spent 10 hours a day online had less grey matter (the thinking part of the brain) than a control group that spent less than two hours a day online.

One study found that playing video games releases the “feel-good” neurotransmitter dopamine which was similar to some stimulant drugs, potentially leading to addictive behaviors. In addition, the human brain is wired to crave instant gratification, fast pace, and unpredictability…all three are satisfied in video games (the same structure as a slot machine).

One study found that playing video games releases the “feel-good” neurotransmitter dopamine which was similar to some stimulant drugs, potentially leading to addictive behaviors. In addition, the human brain is wired to crave instant gratification, fast pace, and unpredictability…all three are satisfied in video games (the same structure as a slot machine).

Gaming engages your video, auditory and tactile senses, unlike just listening to music through ear buds. When two or more of your senses are stimulated, it is like a tractor beam that locks in your attention. This same effect is what happens to men watching Monday night football. So what can parents do, researchers suggest:

  • Pay Attention. Monitor your child’s use of electronics. Place electronic devices in shared spaces, not behind closed doors. Learn how to check the computer’s search history to see what and where your children have been on the Internet.
  •  Establish Boundaries. Reasonable screen time limits need to be set, and enforced! Use a kitchen timer, or other device, to let everyone know when the time is up. Video games are too captivating to expect that a child will glance at clock.
  • Start Talking. Conversation needs to start early with your kids. Set clear expectations and guide them toward healthy balances in all areas: eating, playing, socializing, exercising, and most importantly sleeping.
  • Know Your Child. Maintain a presence in their lives. Give them an opportunity to tell you what their interests are, and engage in some of these experiences with them. Help build a mental scrapbook of real memories so they won’t be left to find fantasy one’s.