Throwback Thursday - Digital Addiction

Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 10:52 AM EDT
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A recent study by the Pew Research Center finds that 85% cannot go a day without being online with the average checking their phone around 96 times a day. While this digital addiction may seem like a new phenomena, the origins date back to some of the earliest forms of digital entertainment and it’s the focus of this week’s Throwback Thursday.

The early 80′s were a time of emerging technology, and as video games lined arcade halls, and home video games were just breaking through into the mainstream concerns were raised regarding the effects of potential video game addiction in the youth. On this week’s Throwback Thursday, we dial the time machine back to 1982 where NewsLine 8′s Susan Kimball delves deeper into the phenomenon known as “Pac-Man Fever” and the budding concerns surrounding this new digital addiction.

There’s Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids, and for the home video game fanatics, Atari and Intellevision provide a wide range of amusements. Video game parlors are replacing pool halls across the country as the new Hangouts, and this fixation of youth with such games is now under study by the medical profession. Research being done at Cornell University shows that video games can have a profound effect on the heart and respiratory system. Playing the games requires the use of visual and auditory senses that often require high levels of dexterity and hand eye coordination. This in turn affects the heart and respiratory system. It becomes agitated and aroused, and researchers say people can actually become addicted to this tension. Doctor Thomas Pickering, A specialist on hypertension at Cornell is, however, more concerned with the effect on the mental and intellectual development of the child obsessed with video games than he is with the physical results, and doctor Robley Morrison, a clinical psychologist in Presque Isle, agrees.

“Playing a video game is so exciting. With the visualizations with especially the sounds with the competitiveness and so forth. Reading a book. For studying, for example, just can’t compare with that or playing a time honored game like chess or checkers probably can’t compete with that, and it teaches children to become addicted to that kind of stimulation where they become bored easily. If there isn’t that kind of visual information and not the constant drone of either music or the sounds from the video game, so they say I’m bored with this, I’m bored with that and go to the most exciting, entertaining thing.” says Morrison.

Interpersonal and communication skills may also be adversely affected by constant use of video games.

“There’s a lot. For a child to learn with respect to other people, as the elementary years go by, and if hour after hour after afternoon are spent on a one to one with a machine that is not teaching, then they’ve got to catch up some other. Your time.” Morrison states.

Doctor Morrison advises that parents at least restrict the use of such games by their children and stress other forms of recreation, including family or peer games. Maybe that way they’ll avoid that phenomenon still raging across the country known as Pac-Man Fever.

Susan Kimball, NewsLine 8