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Fight, Flight, or Video Games?

It’s no secret that excessive amounts of screen time is unhealthy for everyone, especially adolescents. What is less known, however, the adverse impact of screen time and to what extent. Is it television? Social media? Computers? Or video games?

Recent discussions have circled around the consequences of excessive video game use, with some saying it’s better than other forms of screen time and others arguing it’s worse.

Let’s dive into the debate.

A recent study from the University of Montreal found that video games are actually, “…the one form of screen time that is neutral in its effects on teen depression.”

At the same time, psychologists say that video games incite a fight-or-flight response in children’s bodies. When children experience this fight-or-flight response regularly, it can lead to chronic stress.

“When the fight-or-flight state occurs too often, or too intensely, the brain and body have trouble regulating themselves back to a calm state, leading to a state of chronic stress,” explains Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. “Chronic stress is also produced when there is a ‘mismatch’ between fight-or-flight reactions and energy expenditure, as occurs with screen-time.”

Chronically stressed children have more difficulty in, “paying attention, managing emotions, suppressing impulses, following directions, tolerating frustration, accessing creativity and compassion, and executing tasks.”


It doesn’t help that the over-stimulation from video games also hinders deep sleep that children need to function.

However, researchers at the University of Montreal maintain that there is one major benefit of video games in contrast to other types of screen time. They argue that since there is no “idealized self” or images of teens in video games, players feel they have less to live up to when they’re playing.

Much is still unknown about the consequences of excessive screen time for young people – in all its forms.

The team at the University of Montreal suggests that more research needs to be done to figure out what it is exactly about screen time that causes depression.

In the meantime, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for tips on how to hold healthy boundaries with teenagers around their technology use.