Opinion: Adverse effects of gaming and social media

RBC | I tend to be a research junkie. When I don’t really understand something, I dive into learning everything I can about the topic, so I can speak with confidence and intelligence. To me, the internet is an amazing learning tool, the world is at your fingertips. So, I am guilty myself of some of this such as social media, not gaming.

My 14-year-old grandson has been staying with me and will be attending school here this fall. He came with everything, including an Xbox and countless games. As a hypnotherapist I am constantly learning all I can on how the brain works, receives information, neurobiology and so on. This has been my passion for the past 15-plus years. I have countless certifications from neurolinguistic patterns, emotional freedom technique, to kinesthetic healing and emotional discharge. With that, I have been somewhat aghast at the emotional response of my grandson to the Xbox. This is also a very common concern from parents I have as clients.
The most common excuse I hear from parents is, “All the kids play with them.” I have also heard, “It’s a new world. I don’t understand it, but it’s technology.” Incorrect. What is not spoken is how easy it is not to deal with a melting-down kid and allow them to veg out in front of a game. Out of sight, out of mind. Who is the favor for? Not the kid, but for the overworked, exhausted parents to have a few moments to themselves. Here is the reality of this extremely poor choice.
Gaming leads to the following: It is a 100 percent overload to the nervous system due to the part of the brain that is being stimulated. That is the fight-flight response, that part of the brain that our ancestors survived because of what happens with a mountain lion or bear is after you. When the fight-flight response is triggers, blood pressure goes up. An example would be an average of 90/60 shoots up to 140/90. This is “ready to fight mode.” The body goes into high gear, it is overstimulated and over-excited. Blood is rerouted from places like the kidneys, stomach and liver, to the heart, legs, lungs and frontal lobe of the brain.
There is loss of peripheral vision due to keeping eyes locked on the screen. There is a major effect in the feel-good hormone dopamine, and oxytocin, that has a major impact on serotonin need for sleep. The brightness of the screen plays into this as well. These are some of the effects of this over-stimulation: easy to anger, not able to be engaged, bad hygiene, not eating good food and going after sugar and carbohydrates. This is due to adrenal fatigue and over-stimulation of the fight-flight response and the increase of cortisol. Not being able to sleep, restless leg syndrome, disorganization, morning brain fog, overreacting, inability to handle emotions or frustration are other effects. The inability to suppress impulses, follow directions, loss of creativity and most important, the loss of compassion. Children are desensitized to violence. Seeing brains blasted all over for points is not healthy training for anyone. What we are seeing with many young people and their need for “safe spaces” is the inability to handle good, old-fashioned reality. With many of those who have been studied, what is being seen are the same effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. All surrounding video games and the conveniences of time.
When there is hyper-arousal, or chronic stress, it is a high energy expenditure (thus the craving of sugar), yet nothing other than thumbs and eyes are used. Without good hard work or physical activity, there are negative neurotoxins that build up in the muscles. This has been linked to some very awful chronic diseases, like fibromyalgia, diabetes, kidney disease, ADD, ADHD, chronic pain, even long-term drug addiction, and the list keeps growing.
Studies show it literally takes weeks for the brain and brain chemistry to detox from gaming. It is every bit as addicting and lethal as cocaine. It is a fact that much of the same part of the brain is lit up as if this drug was present. Here is another shocking fact, television is not much better. It can also have many of the same effects.
The solution is easy. Limit time on games. Require physical outdoor exercise. Don’t purchase the game in the first place, and remember your children are only a reflection of the time you are willing to give them, and what you are willing to demand from them. Good habits are established early in life. Please, give your time to kids rather than a game. Take them camping, fishing, for a hike, play a board game, but do something better than an Xbox.
These children are everyone’s future. How do you feel about that?

Michelle Hale
By Michelle E. Hale
Clinical Hypnotherapist