New studies find video games to be detrimental to children’s success

Video games, in today’s culture, function in ways very similar to the television; video games are often a sort of babysitter for harried parents or nannies.  Children will sit, mesmerized, by a video game screen for hours – and often fail to realize when a family member calls them to dinner or to do a chore.  Video games need not have a place in children’s lives, but enacting change requires significant effort, both from the child and, especially, the parent.  It is not an easy thing to suffer a video game-addicted child’s withering queries about why they cannot play video games, but it is an important and even necessary step in helping children disengage from the gaming world and reengage in academics and typical socialization.

There is science behind the decision not to let your child play video games, but there is also common sense.  Consider the implications of allowing a child to sit in front of a television or computer screen for extended periods of time.  Is the child communicating with real people?  Is he or she exercising the body, aside from the thumbs and other fingers potentially involved in manipulating a keyboard?  The child is missing valuable for generating creative solutions to “boredom.”  A child that is accustomed to playing video games is extremely averse to spending time away from those games; think of the kids you see hunched over their gaming devices in restaurants, stores, waiting lines.  These are not children who, without any behavioral changes, will grow up to be conversant, confident individuals; they will likely be withdrawn, for they’ve had little experience with real people, rather than video game characters.

Even owning a video game might hinder your child’s academic progress.  Robert Weis and Brittany C. Cerankosky of Denison University conducted a study examining the short-term effects of video-game ownership on academic development in young boys (Science Daily).  Families with boys from ages 6 – 9 were recruited.  All participants were given intelligence tests and reading and writing assessments; their parents and teachers filled out behavioral questionnaire.  Half of the children received a video-game system while the other half were promised a video-game system at the end of the four month study.  At the end of the four month period, both groups – the gamers and the non-gamers – were retested and their parents and teachers were asked to complete more behavioral questionnaires.  The shocking results were as follows:

Boys who received a game system at the beginning of the study showed an immediate increase in how much time they spent playing video games and a decrease in the after-school academic activities.  They also had significantly lower reading and writing scores than the group of boys that were promised a game system at the end of the study.  Parents reported no behavioral changes, but there was an immediate increase in teacher-reported learning problems for boys that received a game system at the beginning of the study (Science Daily).

Children that are forced to interact with the physical world thrive within its constructs; children permitted to interact primarily with a video screen find themselves immersed in a world people by characters rather than humans, and therefore with fantasies rather than relationships.  Iowa State University (ISU) also conducted a study of television and gaming habits and these habits’ relationships to students’ overall academic success and attention span. ISU studied “both elementary school-age and college-age participants [and] found that children who exceeded the two hours per day of screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be above average in attention problems” (Science Daily).

Associate Professor of Psychology Douglas Gentile dubbed television’s effect the “MTV effect,” stating that MTV “started showing music videos that had very quick edits — cuts once every second or two.  Consequently, the pacing of other television and films sped up too, with much quicker edits.”  Gentile also noted that “quicker pace may have some brain-changing effects when it comes to attention span.”  This is particularly to Brainjogging, as Brainjogging strictly mandates that Brainjoggers do not play video games of any kind; Brainjogging also encourages very limited television time and, depending upon the student and his or her disability, sometimes even recommends that Brainjoggers not be exposed to television or movies, in addition to video games.

Brainjogging’s dedication to keeping students as media-free as possible has to do with the fact that the brain is a malleable thing: one can train the brain, but one can train one’s mind in good ways and in bad ones.  Gentile commented, “Brain science demonstrates that the brain becomes what the brain does. If we train the brain to require constant stimulation and constant flickering lights, changes in sound and camera angle, or immediate feedback, such as video games can provide, then when the child lands in the classroom where the teacher doesn’t have a million-dollar-per-episode budget, it may be hard to get children to sustain their attention.”  Heed the following: ISU found “that the effect was similar in magnitude between video games and TV viewing.”  Brainjogging trains students’ minds to respond consistently to stimuli, and to override the chaotic stimuli generated by television and video games.  Brainjogging is not simply tutoring, but cognitive therapy, rewiring the brain to recover any ground lost to excessive television viewing or video gaming.

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