Parents are rightly so bewildered by this new field of sports. Esports, or electronic sports, are like the major leagues for video games players. Teenagers may be attracted to take part in these sports. However, there is limited knowledge on what it requires to succeed in them, given that the regulations for these games are flexible. Moreover, these sports haven’t been around for so long to offer a detailed look into their effects over extended periods of time.
While there are clear-cut advantages to having a career as an esport player, there are disadvantages to consider as well, before any parent or teen falls for the rosy picture so far presented.
Longer Screen Exposure
According to research, teens exposed to longer screen times are prone to get into severe mental disorders. A research study analyzed by the Time magazine found out that teens who spent more than seven hours in a day on screens in pursuit of non-school related activities faced double the chance of confronting depression and anxiety issues and were more susceptible to being less attentive.
In the gaming industry, seven hours is more like an average amount of time that is expected for players to spend playing games each day. The truth is that professionals need to play repetitively in order to develop skills, to take part in competitions, or to make appearances on streaming platforms. It comes to us from the players on Team Liquid, a League of Legends team, as published in Business Insider, that 50 hours per week was the minimum amount of time expected for them to be playing games on a screen.
A necessary evil for a professional esport player is that they would have to give up on the time that could be spend in healthy, physically-rewarding outdoor activities. Their typical day is one spent enclosed inside their home, lounging around on a couch most probably. So, for them they need to consider the trade offs in health they are making. Perhaps, other sports also carry health risks in other forms such as footballers facing risks of extreme physical damage. Esports, however, present risks having nothing to do with physical exertion, rather the complete lack of it.
Aggressive Nature of Video Games
Violence appears in a lot of video games. While a proven link needs to be seen between violence in games and violence in actual life, there is evidence that shows that violent video games, in particular, cause desensitization and moral weakening in individuals, thereby lowering these individuals ability to empathize. The most popular competition-based video games are all war or fighting themed. If you are willing to let your teen be exposed to a lot of shooting and fighting, you need to make sure they are aware of the ill-effects of this exposure in the long run.
The Threats of Community Involvement
Communities of video game players unfortunately support a lot of derogatory talk around the themes of racism, homophobia, sexism and aggressiveness. Such talk is fueled by the combative nature of the games, the prevalent themes of aggression in the games, teen stress, and the lack of face-to-face communication. This can largely affect boys in teenage years who find that the freedom in gaming communities allows them to vent out their built-up anger in the shape of abusive and threatening language. A poll by Ranker found that a majority of the most played esport games—League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2—supported the most dangerous environments in online communities ever. Before you allow your teenager to take part in esports, you must make sure they know how to get around this kind of negativity – also, you do not want them to adopt this behavior.
The Decision is Yours and Your Teen’s
The choice is not that clear. Often, you may have to surrender to your teen’s wishes. A serious one-on-one discussion about the advantages and disadvantages needs to be undertaken between you and your teen. The decision to be an esport player is more or less like choosing a physical sport as a career: it would require the same kind of resolution, countless years of training, some tradeoffs, and some level of luck. One difference is pretty clear, however. Esports will not be physically rewarding and, in fact, can negatively affect the mental health of your teen. So, you will need to find a way for them to take up good daily habits to purify their mind and body against the effects of shooting opponents on a screen for long hours each day.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talking to teens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.