In what is sure to go down as the most infamous post ever posted here at A Dude’s Guide (at least among a certain subsection of little dudes that consists of boys named George of the Jungle, Zippy the Monkey Boy and Speed Racer), some researchers have found that just having a video game system will reduce academic development in some little dudes and dudettes.
Commence the screams of denial and agony from the peanut gallery.
Okay, that’s been enough wailing and gnashing of teeth for now. Somebody get a bouncer back there to take care of the noise.
Ah, that’s better.
So, let’s get on with the bad news.
Psychological scientists Robert Weis and Brittany C. Cerankosky of Denison University conducted a study examining short-term effects of video-game ownership on academic development in young boys. Families with boys between the ages of 6 to 9 were recruited for this study. The families did not own video-game systems, but the parents had been considering buying one for their kids. The children completed intelligence tests as well as reading and writing assessments. In addition, the boys’ parents and teachers filled out questionnaires relating to their behavior at home and at school. Half of the families were selected to receive a video-game system (along with three, age-appropriate video games) immediately, while the remaining families were promised a video-game system four months later, at the end of the experiment. Over the course of the four months, the parents recorded their children’s activities from the end of the school day until bedtime. At the four-month time point, the children repeated the reading and writing assessments and parents and teachers again completed the behavioral questionnaires.
All of which sounds perfectly reasonable so far. But that’s just the calm before the raging hurricane.
The results of this study showed that the boys who received the video-game system immediately spent more time playing video games and less time engaged in after-school academic activities than boys who received the video-game system at the end of the experiment. Furthermore, the boys who received the video-game system at the beginning of the study had significantly lower reading and writing scores four months later compared with the boys receiving the video-game system later on. Although there were no differences in parent-reported behavioral problems between the two groups of kids, the boys who received the video-game system immediately had greater teacher-reported learning problems.
Okay, that does sound really bad. Now, not to defend video games, because, FSM knows, I’ve had more than enough of those darned things. I mean, when are they going to bring back challenging games like Pong or Pac-Man?
Still, I think there might be a problem with the methodology as applied to the real world. As I read this, it seems as if these kids are having unlimited access to the game systems. Nowhere does it say that the parents are putting any restrictions on time played or when the system can be played. That, I think, is an important omission.
Just for the record, we do have a couple of video game systems. And, yes, the little dudes are allowed to play on them. But we have restrictions on when and for how long they can play. Because I’m normally in charge of enforcing these edicts, they do get enforced. Mostly because video games start to annoy me when they’re played for a while. Then I exercise my parental privilege and just tell them to shut it off so I can listen to music. This study? Not so much.
One last big block of stolen borrowed text.
Further analysis revealed that the time spent playing video games may link the relationship between owning a video-game system and reading and writing scores. These findings suggest that video games may be displacing after-school academic activities and may impede reading and writing development in young boys. The authors note that when children have problems with language at this young age, they tend to have a tougher time acquiring advanced reading and writing skills later on. They conclude, “Altogether, our findings suggest that video-game ownership may impair academic achievement for some boys in a manner that has real-world significance.”
Maybe I’m just trying to justify my laxness in allowing them to have game systems, but I think until they find some way to factor in parental guidance to this, it’s not really going to get as much traction as it might otherwise.
That said, however, I know I’m going to be cutting down further on how much the little dudes are allowed to play these game systems during the week.
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