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Video Games vs Guitar Playing

By Jennifer Barlow

There seems to be a variety of students, from ones who are very willing to pick up their guitars at home to others who need prompting from the parents. 

Person playing a video game_edited.png

I thought some research into self-control and where self-discipline comes from would be interesting for you. Especially in terms of where video games comes into all of it.


The part that controls our self-discipline is our prefrontal cortex. Which fully matures when we get to around 25 years of age.


The way to improve our self-control is through practice and activities that improve our brain development. (Like playing guitar.)


The biggest thing that I hear parents say is, but my kid wants to play video games instead of playing guitar. 

Why are video games so addictive? 


On the surface, video games have bright colours, have fun characters, you can win lots of points playing them. 


What most video games actually do is have very specific reward systems that are just right to release high level of dopamine (feel-good chemicals) into your brain at a steady level throughout the game. And it helps to keep you addicted to it. 


Video games also superficially give you or any child a feeling of achievement and growth. 


This is a very clever system, and while I agree that some games have benefits for children when used in a constructive manner.


Besides to simple instant gratifications children can get out of video games. Children get very used to: 


a) I complete this level in a game, I get this reward, then I move to the next level. 

You might notice that a similar system is used in schools. 


b) I complete this piece of homework, I get an A*, then I go up a grade. 


Unfortunately, life isn't so simple. 


A lot of times, there are struggles and frustrations. Challenges big and small. 


Learning a musical instrument is great for teaching children to be patient, and delay gratification. 


Brain development on Video games


Video games produce very high-intensity artificial simulations for children's brains which create a series of chemical reactions. The chemical releases are similar to fight or flight mode of how our bodies would react in the jungle fighting off a tiger.


This is a very primitive reaction due to the excitement of the video game. And what happens is that the brain draws blood from the full-frontal lobe area (the area for self-control) towards to the deeper areas needed for survival mode. And thus reducing their ability to control themselves. (This actually happens faster for children than adults.)


On top of this, for children, their frontal lobe is still developing, and so it's unrealistic to expect them to be able to handle and adapt to this high level of intense and artificial simulation that our brain was never designed to be under for prolonged periods of time.

They haven't yet developed an idea of how to balance short-term reward of video games with long-term consequences. 


While there are many benefits to playing video games, and it can help develop other skills for them. It’s important to understand their addictive potential for children who do not have fully developed self-control command centre yet. 

Short term reward vs long term consequences


The idea of being able to balance short-term reward vs long term is thought to improve happiness too. But that's for another time. 

The idea of considering consequences to help them manage their self-control is something kids experience and improves with age. 

Practicing guitar teaches children to manage their short-term emotion with thinking about their long-term rewards. And helps to their brain development too. If your child is into playing video games, then they are probably going need some encouragement from you to help them manage their time and self-control. 


Guitar Tuition East London here to provide fun, engaging guitar lessons for kids and adults too. Helping to educate parents along the way to help improve the lives of everyone in the guitar school. 

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