Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article talking about the increased screen time of children during the pandemic.
“I’m not losing my son to this.”
Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, children are sliding into an all-consuming digital life. Some parents and scientists are unified in concern about potential long-term consequences. https://t.co/5RsYdKHd73
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 17, 2021
This generated mixed responses from people. Some of them agreeing while some of them don’t. Some researchers like Dr. Rachel Kowert have also provided their opinions about the article:
An article was published in the @nytimes today entitled "Children’s Screen Time Has Soared in the Pandemic, Alarming Parents and Researchers" and I have thoughts.
A thread. https://t.co/thBW95zdPM
— Dr. Rachel Kowert (@DrKowert) January 17, 2021
With all of that being said, I’d like to lay out my thoughts about the matter.
Where are the good things?
The article focused more on the bad side of things which isn’t really what you should do when you’re writing a piece like this. A simple Google search of “Are Video Games Bad For Me” will net you results that say “Too much gaming is bad for you”, which applies to everything, to be completely honest. So what about the good things that video games provide during the pandemic? KeenGamer has published an article called Pandemic Depression: Have you tried Video Games?, which talks about the positive effects of video games on a person’s mental health. Not yet convinced? Oxford also vouches for this, saying that video gaming does have the potential to be beneficial to our mental health. Now, this doesn’t mean that gamers should just spend their days in front of their consoles playing games, that’s basically what the article from the New York Times is saying. This, however, leads me to the next section, which is Gaming Disorder.
What is Gaming Disorder?
Gaming Disorder, also called gaming addiction, was added into the World Health Organization’s (WHO) international classifications of diseases in 2018. However, the American Psychiatric Association has only considered it as a possible psychiatric condition but not recognizing it as one as of yet. This means that further research needs to be made before it can be considered as one. For more information about this topic, Dr. Rachel Kowert made a video about it:
This is a topic that the article failed to touch upon. Sure, the World Health Organization has already moved forward and classified it as a condition but with the American Psychiatric Association being quite against it, the people might be confused as to what they should be following, which in turn will feed into the fears of parents about whether their children are actually addicted to video games or not.
Feeding the fear in our minds
This is the article’s principal offense. It’s feeding the already existing fears of the parents towards video games. Even though there’s a lot of research telling us that there are more positive effects than negative ones, it’s just easier for the older generation to blame it for everything bad that’s happening. This doesn’t just happen to video games, but technology as a whole. You might hear parents blaming phones and tablets for their kid’s poor performance in schools when in fact, it might be their own parenting that’s the problem. But we can’t really blame them. It’s a product of misinformation and a larger generation gap than ever.
Is escapism really that bad or is it bad because video games are used? The article states:
Dr. Radesky said that the mingling of all of these functions not only gives children a chance to multitask, it also allows young people to “escape” from any uncomfortable moment they may face. If they are doing schoolwork that bores them, she said, they can easily move into a “pleasure cocoon” by switching to watching YouTube, chatting with friends, playing a game.
Escapism doesn’t need to include video games. It can be with any kind of media such as music or a book. But for some reason, video games are always portrayed as a negative form of escapism and reading a book being a positive one. This is quite funny if you think about it as reading books has also been subject to criticism years ago. The article also included a bit from the interview:
“What are you going to do when you’re married and stressed? Tell your wife that you need to play Xbox?” she said to her son during the interview.
Where Dr. Kowert had a very good response.
We’ve reached the end: my favorite quote of the whole piece.
— Dr. Rachel Kowert (@DrKowert) January 17, 2021
The article has touched upon the pandemic but hasn’t emphasized its importance. People right now know the importance of gadgets and electronics, as work from home setups have been popularized. We have no choice but to stay at home and communicate with our friends or workmates over the internet, which of course has us staring at a screen much more than before because of the pandemic. You wouldn’t want to risk catching COVID-19 just because you wanted a breath of fresh air. The article does its work, sure, but it could’ve been better if the author wrote a little more about how video games have helped a lot of people cope up with depression and anxiety as the effects of the pandemic on our mental health looms over us. I think this should’ve been the counter-argument to the main one he was presenting.