Since the beginnings of the Internet more than fifty years ago, there have always been people who have made digital the center of their daily lives, both at work and professionally. A community of technology enthusiasts thanks to which we were able to discover the great advances of the 20th century until we reach the hyperconnected present in which we now find ourselves: mobile telephony, robotics, computers in every home, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, 5G, all kinds of realities (augmented, mixed and virtual), block chainIoT… A marvel of the digital age.
But if many of us, technophiles, already want to know everything about the metaverse, there have also always been those who viewed digital with suspicion… And this, no doubt, has worsened in recent decades when It seems that A real ultra-conservative digital current has emerged: let’s keep children away from screens!
The sector, within the technological universe, which has suffered the most almost since its origins from this inquisitive harassment has been that of video games. Both players and the industry itself has been blamed for many of the tragedies that have caused the most social concern in public opinion for decades. Donald Trump himself, former US President, went so far as to say that consuming so much violence in video games was behind the massacre of Tlatelolco students, which occurred in 2018. And on this side of the Atlantic we still relaunched a few days ago the same after the parricide of Elche.
And it doesn’t matter a katana, a shotgun, or teenage sanity, here ‘what sells’ is whether or not they were addicted to video gamesand, thus, having the perfect excuse to, once again, blame technology for all the disasters in the world…
On the ability of video games to make minors more violent, one of the people who has best and most seriously studied this question, being a reference in the matter, is Chris J. Ferguson. In 2015 he published the study ‘Do angry birds make angry children?‘. A meta-analysis of the influences of video games on aggression, mental health, prosocial behavior, and academic performance in children and adolescents. and concluded that the influence on increased aggressiveness was minimal.
Years later, in 2017, he wrote with psychology professor Patrick Markey, ‘Moral Warfare: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong‘ (Moral Warfare: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong), an essay from their investigations where they confirmed that there was no scientific evidence linking this entertainment industry to violent crime.
More violent no, but then, addicted?
Well, here we have another of the great media topics: cell phones and video games as the new drugs of the 21st century. According to the ‘ESTUDES 2018-2019’ survey, concerning the use of video games, 80% of the population of students aged 14 to 18 questioned have played during the past year, and among these, only 6 .1% would present a possible video game disorder according to the scale based on the DSM-V criteria.
This disproportionate concern about whether or not video games are addictive among minors has influenced the fact that since January 1, 2022 video game disorder will come into effect as a new mental illness in ICD-11 -the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO)-, not without great disagreement in the scientific community and protests from the video game industry.
According to the WHO, to be able to speak of “addiction or addictive disorder”, a series of criteria must be met: an activity carried out excessively and beyond the control of the individual and, with it, causes functional deterioration, but continues or increases despite the negative consequences (a period of at least 12 months is necessary for the diagnosis to be assigned).
The risk for many expert professionals is that there are activities that are “done in excess” (and meet these superficial criteria) and may be considered an addictive disorder without being so.
Because, as José César Perales, professor at the University of Granada and expert in behavioral addictions, says: “If we apply very lax criteria to assess what an addiction is, we can generate a panic that reduces the resources available and makes some recreational activities problematic, with a very small percentage of cases requiring clinical attention“.
Why do children play video games excessively? Maybe he lacks social skills in real life, and he gets that reinforcer in the game. He may feel abused or harassed by his peers and turned his video game avatar into an (unreal) superhero that everyone admires and with whom everyone wants to play. Or he is a very impulsive and hyperactive child who has trouble controlling himself with play.
Therefore, the most important thing is that families are always support and supervise the digital activity of minors to be able to detect the warning signs that may indicate that something is wrong:
– He locks himself in his room more than usual.
– Suddenly decrease your performance and grades in school.
– We notice physical changes such as weight loss, fatigue or drowsiness.
– Suddenly changing friends or isolating oneself, and not wanting to leave the house.
– Is constantly aggressive, retorts, or has any other pronounced change in character, such as sadness or anxiety.
– He gets angry, even becomes violent, every time we try to make him disconnect the computer or stop using the mobile.
In these cases, we must go to a professional who advises us, such as our family doctor, or to specialized centers for the prevention and treatment of addictions, where, depending on the seriousness of the case, we will be assisted by a team of family guidance. (who guide and guide the family) or health personnel (psychologists, doctors, nurses, etc.), who will work directly with the adolescent.
Thus, growing up, they will be the ones who learn how to use the internet safely. Because yes, there are risks on the internet (cyberbullying, sexting, grooming, phishing, etc.), but banning technology will not make our children safer. So let’s stop looking for the culprits, video games, cell phones, social networks, chachachá… The best option will always be education.