In recent years, there’s been a cycle of blaming video games for aggressive behaviors, although studies have been inconclusive. According to research, violent video games may increase aggressive behavior, but the effect is usually very small. While the rise in popularity of violent video games may not explain recent trends in violent crime, they may be responsible for an increase in mental health issues, like social isolation and depression.
From Social Activities to Social Escape
Many researchers believe that violent video games are problematic, not because of gaming itself, but rather associated avoidance of social interaction in favor of playing video games. While some competitive video games are multi-player and require multiple controllers, the gaming industry is shifting towards online gaming, where solo users can connect with others from all over the world. Though this tries to connect isolated users, it adds a level of de-personalization, where the online relationships they form feel distant or temporary. Some platforms encourage messaging boards, but most assign players randomly.
Through adolescence, teens may spend more time playing video games with their friends after school, but young adults are more likely to turn to video games by themselves to escape stressors and responsibilities in their everyday lives.
As video games are rapidly becoming more realistic and immersive, they can provide whole other worlds and platforms for young adults to explore, problem-solve, and discover. Sometimes, young adults find that they prefer the Internet world to their current social environment and begin to see the “real world” through a critical lens.
When Isolation Turns to Avoidance
According to a study conducted at Brigham Young University on the effect of violent video game use, there are a variety of reasons young adults may spend more time alone that determine their level of loneliness as a risk factor for gaming disorder.
- Unsocial: This is a person who doesn’t mind being social and has no issues surrounding it, they just like to be alone.
- Shy: This is a person who wants to be social, but is often held back by a fear of being judged or messing up.
- Avoidant: This is a person who purposely and actively tries to avoid social interactions.
“Regardless of your initial levels of withdrawal, problematic media use predicted becoming more shy and unsocial later,” said lead author and Brigham Young University family life professor Larry Nelson.
Isolation may be one thing, but avoiding social activities reveals deeper insecurities, low self-esteem, and fear of rejection and not fitting in. This can get in the way of young adult’s trying to pursue their academic, career, and personal goals.
Increasing Social Connection
Amount of time playing video games doesn’t necessarily equal video game addiction, although young adults who play for more than four hours a day often struggle with signs of depression. Video games may contribute to social isolation, but they are often a way for young adults to cope with feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
In a different study, lead author Michelle Colder Carras, PH.D, explains, “While playing video games for four hours a day can be worrisome behavior, not everyone who does so is at risk of developing symptoms of addiction or depression. If young adults are sitting around playing games together with their friends or chatting regularly with their friends online as they play, this could be part of a perfectly normal developmental pattern. We shouldn’t assume all of them have a problem.”
Based on her findings, Colder Carras suggests the opposite of gaming disorder is not getting rid of video games, but rather increasing social connection and engagement in healthier social activities.
blueFire Pulsar Can Help
BlueFire Wilderness PulsaR is a coeducational wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-28 struggling with depression, anxiety, Internet addiction, relationship problems, and failure to launch. Wilderness therapy removes students from the distraction of peers, video games, social media, and demands of life and allows them to heal in a supportive and nurturing environment. Adventure therapy, wilderness ventures, equine therapy, academic opportunities and “family spark” are used to help students open up and look at their life. This program is dedicated to helping students regain a better sense of the world around them while addressing their emotions and needs head-on. Through adventure activities, young adults develop meaningful relationships with themselves and their peers.
Contact us at 208-269-7407 for more information about video game addiction. We can help your family today!