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What are video games doing to our children?

by
11 December 2015

iStock

From Wendy Boulton

Sir, — I have been watching my grandson, aged just five, playing a video game on his family tablet. It was a child’s game, but violent, none the less. He played with great speed and intense concentration, and I watched him with growing concern.

Complex young minds need gentle stimulation to develop naturally. This frenetic hyper-activity in early childhood is unnatural, and in most cases now sustained into early teens and beyond, using digital devices. Could this be causing a change or distortion in the brain during its formative years, reaching a critical point at puberty — particularly in teenage young men, who are also reacting then to rising testosterone levels?

Tablets such as iPads are increasingly used by parents as a pacifier for their young children, both at home and in social situations such as meals out, just when the children should be learning interactive social skills by participation. Should parents be made aware that this could be damaging their child’s social development?

I would like to suggest that an explosive critical point reached in teenage years, combined with an inability to interact socially, could underlie our increasingly dark and violent global society. I have read that one in 100 people has a mildly schizoid tendency — shyness, withdrawal, insecurity, or paranoia — but that schizophrenia is relatively rare. Have the figures changed since 1989, when that book appeared?

We need to establish as a matter of urgency whether there is a link between sustained video-game use and the rise in violent behaviour worldwide; for identifying the cause in order to take remedial action should surely be one of society’s most pressing priorities.

WENDY BOULTON
(Bishop of Chelmsford’s Adviser on Environmental Issues, 2000-08)
Hillside Cottage, Beggar Hill
Ingatestone, Essex CM4 0PH

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