This topic is so vibrant that I suspect we will break some technological limits on the scope of the discussion?
Yes, there are blind pathways strewn with candy leading kids astray (e.g. in videogames). In theory it seems possible to design a learning space in which a human would land in a local maxiumum of some virtual reality. Such a design is unlikely in the light of the access to an infinite variety of explorations on the web. However, it is interesting theoretically.
If someone was to find a fake summit in virtual reality, coercive learning is the exact societal error that could perpetuate the fake find for ever. Learn drive is partially stochastic and its optimality must be seen from the populational point of view.
I see the freedom to learn in terms of human rights. That is an overriding argument. For abolishing slavery, the fate of cotton farms was secondary. However, it is still useful to show the optimality of the learn drive, i.e. the idea that Paul Raymond-Robichaud thought of as possibly provable in purely mathematical terms.
Optimality of the learn drive refers to its being the best comparator of value of knowledge, and information channels. It does not mean that the learn drive is free from competition from other rewards (e.g. gambling, alcohol, sex, etc.). The key to harmonious development is freedom. It is the limits on freedom that result in reward deprivation that may lead to addiction (incl. game addiction).
The videogame industry is often used as an efficient killer of the noble idea of child’s rights and freedoms. Allegedly, given their liberty, children would spend all days playing videogames. It is not very different from the claim that the uneducated slaves, given their freedom, would spend all their days drinking themselves dumb. The risk of game addiction is non-zero, but it is remediable and provides no excuse for limiting freedoms.
A good videogame will indeed leave a path of candy. This candy is primarily knowledge! Other gamification factors can also play a role. Points or competitions are of secondary importance for a healthy brain. In other words, game developers must work on becoming attractive by virtue of knowledge benefit provided. Otherwise, we could make a roulette, pinball or a slot machine into a bestseller. Most of free gamers keep switching games and get bored fast. Most of free gamers outgrow games by devoting their time to other passions. Those who don’t outgrown gaming for a while, derive their reward from success (e.g. in e-sports). Only a tiny minority are hard core cases that have their roots in reward deprivation or genuine pathologies. In that, gaming is not different from alcohol. There will always be victims.
Parents who impose consistent screentime limits may drive up the value of gaming reward, but may avoid the variability effect. If they add pressure for good grades, the relative valence of gaming increases. If they are inconsistent and keep oscillating between love and restrictions of freedom, they can trigger variable reward mechanism into a positive feedback loop. Those cases give games their bad names. Yes, Parents can do more harm than games.
As gaming is partially driven by variable reward, it is the adult world that has a greater contribution to addictions than games themselves. Most if all, I blame authoritarian upbringing. See: Reward diversity in preventing addictions
There is a widespread claim that game designer, advertiser, political campaigns, and the like, employ an army of brain researchers who design algorithms that can control the brains (see: brain hacking). Those claims are cast mostly in reference to new technologies that are not well understood. By analogy, we could say the same about literature or the movie industry. In theory, Hollywood could also employ behavioral experts who would churn profits by having audiences addicted. The main difference between movies and games is not that the latter are a more dangerous medium.
The main difference is that most adults watch movies, and fear no movie addiction. Very few adults are gamers with an actual understanding of their rewarding nature. We tend to fear things we do not understand.
In all above deliberations I forgot to add that videogames carry tremendous educational value. I used to say that the only kids around who speak foreign languages are those who spent some time abroad. Today I see more and more children who master English by playing computer games.
The potential of videogames is virtually limitless. This is why they should be explored. Free kids are great explorers of the new.