Growing up, my sons loved playing Sonic the Hedge Hog and Zelda. One even enjoyed it so much he would forget to eat. When it was time to stop playing, they usually became angry and demanded more time. Now I understand why. Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley, psychiatrist, author of Reset Your Child’s Brain and screen-time expert, explains that when children play video games dopamine “the feel good chemical” is released in their brains “and when they stop they are in a relative state of withdrawal.” She added they may become “tearful, irritable, disorganized, depressed and feel they can’t concentrate.”
Gaming is changing our children’s brains and behavior in other ways as well.
Video game companies claim that a teen sitting in a room alone playing a video game is not isolating because there are games that can be played on the Internet with people from around the world. But playing a video game with someone in another state or country is not the same as being with them.
Dr. Daniel Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, states “In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.”
Touch promotes attachment, cooperation, increases compassion and friendship, reduces stress, the risk of disease and increases the immune system.
Touch is lost when gaming. There is no physical interaction, which humans and especially children need.
The gamer is alone in the room. There are no celebratory high 5s or knuckle bumps, no pats on the back. nor encouraging nudges .
Eye contact is lost, which in some cultures it is a cornerstone of non-verbal communication between individuals. It signals to the other person that you are engaged and listening. It also indicates that the speaker is important because you are only focusing on him.
Facial expressions are lost. When you are face to face, the listener’s facial expressions can track the speaker’s emotions and communicate empathy, happiness, sadness, etc. creating greater connection.
Body language is lost because the speaker cannot see you learn forward indicating that you are interested and engaged nor see you cross your arms and legs to show you may feel defensive or vulnerable.
These losses and increased isolation result in decreased emotional and social skills, which are necessary for children and teens to be successful and happy.