Twiddling Thumbs


MJ Banner.png

We all need time to relax, to 'unwind' and to take our minds off various commitments; however, what is important is whether we can manage our time well, plan to complete tasks and cease undertaking relaxing activities when we have work to do.  There are various forms of relaxation: physical activities, sleeping, hobbies and screen time – whether passively watching and 'vegging' in front of television or being more actively engaged with a screen. Everyone needs balance in their lives, but this might occur across a year rather than every day. Achieving balance doesn't mean doing something all the time because it is critical to one's well-being and achievement that other elements (such as sleep, exercise, nutrition, and hydration – which are so important to optimal performance in any field) are incorporated into one's life. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed the concept of 'Flow', where individuals locate the optimal match of challenge and skill development. Electronic gaming can provide this match – especially for students who have not been able to access 'Flow' in other contexts.  Gaming generates dopamine in the brain, providing a 'feel good' experience and simultaneously providing a context for high ability students to utilise their capabilities, thus gaining social acceptance; however, this neurochemical can be addictive, making it harder for students to 'switch off' from electronic gaming once they are engaged in the activity.

Parents who establish clear limits from the outset are wise. The only solution if electronic gaming is already established is for the individual to consider what negative impacts there might be from continuing to game rather than focusing on an academic task that awaits completion.  Sometimes it is useful to confront the impact of certain behaviours, asking oneself: “what will occur as a result of continuing down this path?"

Dopamine has it uses; it helps to focus the mind and improve mood. This important neurochemical can be accessed through other activities, and it may be useful to consider substituting physical activities for electronic gaming. 

The adolescent brain is under construction and what the brain focusses on currently will determine what skills the adult brain will have.  Electronic gaming increases peripheral vision and reaction time.  Impulsive individuals might become more inclined to react without considering various options. Some high ability students are inclined to 'overthink' issues, thinking over and around something so often that it slows them considerably, sometimes preventing the completion of academic tasks. Moderate amounts of gaming can be helpful to increase response time.

Ultimately, it is about being able to limit and manage electronic gaming for productive purposes rather than having electronic gaming overwhelm the individual, limiting task completion and creating a negative experience.

​© Michele Juratowitch

Back to news feed
Last reviewed 21 October 2022
Last updated 21 October 2022