Thursday, April 1, 2010

Video Games, Boys, and Learning - Not A Good Mix According to Study

A typical retail display (in Geneva, Switzerla...Image via WikipediaPsychologists Robert Weis and Brittany C. Cerankosky of Denison University conducted a study, Effects of Video-Game Ownership on Young Boys' Academic and Behavioral Functioning: A Randomized, Controlled Study, examining the short-term effects of video-game ownership on learning and academic development in young boys. The findings, well, after young boys receive their first video game system they don’t do as well in school as boys who don’t own such devices...wow, didn't see that coming.

The researchers recruited families with boys between the ages of 6 to 9 who did not own video-game systems. The children completed the standard intelligence, reading, and writing tests, and the boys’ parents and teachers filled out questionnaires relating to their behavior at home and at school. The study then provided a video-game system (along with three, age-appropriate video games) to half the families 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, both parents (with and without video game systems) recorded their children’s post-school activities 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.

Well, the obvious happened, the boys who received the video game systems right away spent more time playing video games (39.3 minutes vs. 9.3 minutes) and less time (18.2 minutes vs. 31.6 minutes) in after-school academic activities. But in my non-scientific and humble opinion, the data-collection period of four months simply does not represent a real discovery and learning cycle; give it a year and see what happens. In fact, what would be really interesting is to continue this for a few years and see how the two data groups evolve in terms of learning, socializing, creativity, etc.; we really know very little about the long-term effects of gaming on boys. But I think it may be a question of the two meeting halfway: the study findings suggest that video games may be displacing after-school academic activities and impeding reading and writing development in young boys...so do we get rid of video games or, hmmm, maybe look at a way of combining the two.

The study was recently released in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.