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Aristotle was the first to use the word “slack” to describe young men with no interest in the institutions of work and education. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers recent report, the number of “prime age men” (21-30), without a college education, who answer “zero,” when asked how many weeks they’ve worked during the past year, has more than doubled from 8% in 2000 to 18% in 2017. There is now growing evidence, attributing these numbers to the substitution of labor force participation with media consumption, and in particular online gaming and video games.

“Slacker” culture, in general, is typically defined by “non-participation” and “underemployment.” Many theorists are saying that what the rise in gaming demonstrates, is the growing meaning and importance of “play” itself, as part of the leisure lifestyle; a lifestyle that consists of relaxing, socializing, and other activities such as television viewership. Meanwhile, the television viewership of “prime age men” has also doubled, says Psychology Today. 

Positive Effects

On the other hand, the benefits of time spent during leisure can be quite healthy, especially as a collaborative, rather than a solitary, activity for school age children. Data from the School Children -Mental Health Europe project, which analyzed youngsters between the ages of 6-11, elicited results showing that children regularly involved with gaming are “more socially cohesive with peers,” and more integrated into the school community, says Science Daily.  In addition, Forbes Magazine recently reported findings showing that not only animals but humans, existing in enriched environments, encountered positive results. This particular dynamic was tested on video game players, and revealed that 3D gamers, as opposed to 2D players, experienced improved hippocampal-related memory. The National Academy of Sciences has also published a paper about the benefits of 3D this year, stating that 3D action gamers, and not the 2D players, show signs of enhanced attention, cognition, and perception.

Negative Effects

So far, much of the research on gaming shows that one of the worst effects is its vast potential for becoming an addiction, as well as the fact that the addiction itself is something that’s occurring physiologically during play. Addiction causes the brain to rewire itself, creating a new neural reward system, and in a way similar to most other addictions. Adults and especially children, are susceptible to gaming addiction or video game overuse. Compulsive and excessive participation in gaming is said to be similar to pathological gambling and may cause children, for example, to grow to favor this pastime over learning and attending school. Another physiological effect reported in The Royal Society Publishing, involves the increase of striatum within the brain resulting in a shrunken hippocampus. Unfortunately, hippocampus reduction is frequently linked to Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and neurological disorders.

What To Expect

The upward trends in slacker culture and gaming are likely to continue, as “play” and the effects of the leisure lifestyle become evident in our social culture. These new values, agents, and cultural norms are currently reshaping civilization as we know it.  However, experts have a warning for parents. One of the most crucial things parents can do for children who enjoy gaming is to monitor their child’s playing. It is important to keep track of not only how long they are interacting with these games but also, which games they are playing as well. It is also important to make sure that the games are not inappropriate or excessively violent.

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