Young people experiencing mental health conditions are on the rise, with one in six children aged five to 16 were identified as having a ‘probable’ mental health condition at the start of 2022 (NHS, 2022).
Now, with 91% of 3-15 year olds gaming regularly (U-Switch, 2022), how can esports have an impact on the mental wellbeing of young people?
We look at how esports can be beneficial for your child’s mental health, and also discuss the negatives surrounding it too.
Boosts self confidence:
One of the many things that people do not realise esports can impact is confidence, and how young people can develop their self confidence through becoming engaged with competitive gaming.
Confidence can be boosted in many different ways, but the most common comes with support from those around the player. Even if your child is not winning every single game, or having the best performance in a match, being able to encourage them to keep on trying can have a real positive effect and make gaming a more enjoyable experience.
By having more confidence in themselves, and knowing that those around them have confidence in them too, their mental health and wellbeing can improve – creating a positive environment associated with gaming and esports.
As well as boosting the confidence of the individual, esports can also aid the development of core social and communication skills – which are key for if a young person is suffering with a mental health condition.
Being involved in gaming and esports can provide a ‘low-pressure’ environment for people to connect with friends and family online, whilst also being a good way to socialise.
Building up the confidence to talk to friends and family online through a gaming setting can allow for a great place to recharge after a stressful day – and this is incredibly important for young people who may be in need of a space to have a break.
Your child can then utilise this online gaming space to ensure they have somewhere to go if their mental health begins to take a toll, or just have somewhere to unwind after a stressful time.
Great way to relieve stress:
Alongside being a good development in characteristic traits, esports and gaming is a very good stress reliever.
As mentioned previously, being able to have a ‘low-pressure’ gaming space to unwind can allow for positive impacts on mental wellbeing, and give young people an opportunity to relieve any burdens from their day.
Whilst gaming has a negative reputation in causing stress rather than relieving it, this is not the case in the majority of instances – where young people embrace gaming as a part of their routine to promote positive wellbeing.
Moreover, with there being a wide variety of gaming and esports genres available, there is plenty of opportunity for relaxation through whatever the individual finds enjoyable.
There is a lot of science behind finding gaming enjoyable, and how it can be an easy stress reliever – and this research by Kabir L. of Healthy Gamer goes into a lot of detail on the topic.
Addiction and negative impacts:
Whilst there are plenty of ways that esports and gaming can greatly improve mental wellbeing, it is worth noting that there can be some negative impacts if things are taken out of moderation.
As with anything, gaming is very beneficial in moderation or balanced properly between other aspects of life, but sometimes things can occur to affect mental health.
Gaming addiction is a much less-common issue, but it can have quite negative effects on an individual if things are not put in place. However, this can easily be prevented by open communication with your child, and drawing the line between gaming in their spare time, and addiction. The NHS now runs a specialist centre for ‘Internet and Gaming Disorders’, made for young people who have had their mental health severely affected by the excessive playing of online games, so more help in this area is readily available.
Cyber-bullying is also something to be aware of as young people can experience toxic language or behaviour in online gaming. There are a lot of resources available to support young people who experience this, and also ways to report the issues. Parents can support by ensuring appropriate parental controls are in place, which will help prevent cyber bullying.
These might sound like quite serious issues, but they are very rare occurrences in gaming and esports. Most young people embrace the benefits that esports can bring, and the more that parents/guardians understand, the more support they can provide their child.
If your child is suffering with a mental health condition, seek advice from your GP or a specialist on the correct steps to take, or you can find further information from charities like Young Minds, Barnardo’s.
Safeguarding in esports:
On top of ensuring that young people are welcome in esports, the industry is gradually improving its safeguarding standards to ensure everyone is safe in the online space.
Tom Dore, Global Head, International Relations and Safeguarding lead at British Esports, said: “Online safety and safeguarding for young people is of the utmost priority in esports. British Esports has measures in place to maintain a positive environment for all players, but there is still more we can all do. By establishing global industry standards and educating individuals on how best to look after themselves and others online, the esports industry should take the lead in promoting the best safeguarding practices, especially around online activities.”
With esports rising in popularity in the education sector, teachers are having to explore ways in which young people can be protected in online spaces – especially through gaming that involves player interaction. Some examples of this include limiting communications (in a similar way to Parental Controls), monitoring toxicity within their community, and providing children with the resources to flag any concerns.
These measures are becoming the groundwork for further development in the best practices for safeguarding in esports, and will only continue to flourish as more people are becoming involved with the industry.
For more information about the benefits of esports, and how it can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing, check out our Parent and Carers Guide here. This guide covers a wide variety of topics within esports, and outlines how you can get involved with your child’s interest.