Online Gaming: Social Playground or Social Pariah?
Due to the many negative perceptions around social media – some rooted in scientific evidence, some based on anecdotal tributes – online gaming has been painted with a similar brush. There are views that it leads to addiction, reduced capacity to socialise, and greater exposure to online abuse in many forms. But what impact does online gaming really have on a young person’s wellbeing from a more holistic approach?
First, a look at the benefits that have been cited by many academics, and backed up by research with young people. Online gaming has been proven to help with mental growth, enhancing memory, problem solving and multi-tasking skills. All young people learn in different ways, and studies have shown that online gaming offers an alternative creative outlet for individuals to flourish where they may not in traditional schooling infrastructures.
Reports from the Children’s Commissioner have shown that online gaming “extends normal play into a digital landscape, and children play by the same social rules that they apply offline”. Online gaming, particularly during the Covid lockdown, allows young people to communicate with groups of friends or individuals, and strengthen their bond over a common interest.
However, it must be noted that even young people themselves acknowledge the negatives that come with online gaming. Whilst we know that many social constructs are paralleled in the virtual world, many young people have noticed that theirs and their friend’s behaviour can be different online. Similar to social media, being behind a screen gives the appearance of a lack of consequences to their actions, and bullying, vile language and abuse is more commonplace. The impacts this can have on mental health, particularly when coming from within a friendship group, has shown to be devastating in cases.
So what can be done? Whilst many young people admit they lose track of time and can be a little addicted, they are aware of the impacts of online gaming, and are starting to understand their limits. Clearly, gaming provides a lot of social benefits, but must be managed effectively, often with parental intervention, to mitigate the potentially harmful consequences.
Our recent qualitative tracker included the role of online gaming in young peoples lives, and the impact it could have on their relationships. To find out more about this, and young people’s behaviours and attitudes on a wide variety of topics, contact Helen or Afra (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com).