How many hours a day do your kids play video games? Studies show that letting kids entertain themselves for hours with video games hinders their ability to learn and express emotion. It puts them at risk of stunted brain growth and a loss of self-control. Research shows that the thought processes required by computer games are too simple to stimulate crucial areas of the brain, leading to underdevelopment and consequent behavioral problems. One study measured the brain activity of hundreds of teenagers while they played a Nintendo game and compared it to another group doing simple arithmetic. The results showed that, unlike the math exercise, the computer game did not stimulate the brain’s frontal lobe, an area which plays an important role in the repression of anti-social impulses and is associated with memory, learning and emotion. A lack of stimulation in the frontal lobe before the age of 20 prevents the neurons from thickening and connecting, thus impairing the brain’s ability to control impulses. A more highly stimulated and thus more developed brain is able to keep such urges under check.
“If computer games are a main source of stimulation over a prolonged period of time when the brain is developing, this could result in an under-developed frontal lobe and the behavioral problems associated with this,” says Dr Tonmoy Sharma.
“Computer games do not lead to brain development because they simply require the repetition of simple actions and have more to do with developing quick reflexes than carrying out more mentally challenging activities such as forward planning or analysis.
Stimulation of the frontal lobe was also important in the production of the chemical serotonin which is used by the brain to repress impulses. When this area of the brain is stimulated, the brain can effectively produce serotonin and thus repress anti-social urges. When the area is not stimulated and thus does not grow, serotonin levels fall and a person’s ability to control their behavior is reduced, said Dr Sharma. Studies also found that reading out loud was very effective at stimulating the frontal lobe.