Game Transfer Phenomena

Some (but not many) parents I talk to who have children with problematic gaming issues, tell me their child has threatened the parent or themselves with harm should they proceed with video game restrictions. When a child threatens harm to self or others, they are clearly in trouble and not in control of themselves or their actions. If a parent feels threatened when trying to implement video game restrictions, then it is imperative they seek assistance from a medical professional e.g. physician, psychiatrist or psychologist. While most shooters are gamers (14 mass murders are linked to violent video games), this does not mean most gamers will become shooters. What parents, teachers, clinicians, and government can do to prevent mass killers is stop letting children under the age of 12 be exposed to violent media content. Student education regarding impact of violent media content by trained teachers in schools is paramount, as is parent education by counsellors and clinicians (RN’s, Dr.’s, therapists, psychologists). Government should legislate video game industry to include clear warnings on all video games referencing harmful effects of video games on children. Parents spending more time with their children and less time on screens will improve child mental health and lessen problematic behaviors and acts of violence.

Increasing incidence of absenteeism and tardiness of children and youth in schools always has me asking students what they were doing at home, and not surprising to hear they were gaming late into the night. Students who are good at gaming often tell me that school is “boring” or “too hard”, and that they don’t get rewarded for trying to do their work. Many students I work with outright refuse to do school work, and many teachers are turning to using video games as a reward for produced work at school.

As social skills are key in establishing primary relationship with partners, as well as securing jobs upon graduation, children and youth who have social anxiety or are socially phobic will have much greater difficulty experiencing meaningful relationships and finding work.The Canadian Mental Health Association reports 1 in 7 children and youth have a diagnosed mental illness.  Douglas Gentile’s 2009 study indicated 1 out of 10 children aged 8-18 years are addicted to technology, with Common Sense Media reporting 50% of youth self-report screen addiction. Never in the history of humankind have there been child addictions. Difficult and expensive to treat, very soon this will become the job of every health and education professional.

Media imagery affects behavior, a fact capitalized on by the advertising industry. Video game imagery is increasingly realistic and highly immersive, even more so with the onset of large screens and virtual reality headsets. Research is now documenting Game Transfer Phenomena, where gamers retain visual imagery and violent behaviors endemic in the game and transfer these to real life. A study of adult gamers showed 71% visualized video game imagery with eyes closed after gaming; 31% visualized imagery with eyes open.


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