Don’t miss Carey’s excellent radio piece this morning on how her son Tully’s intense fascination with video games — some violent — might play out as he grows up. The piece also raises important questions about whether such testosterone-fueled games actually make kids more violent, or whether they help the children become more adventurous and creative, better problem solvers and critical thinkers.
I encourage you to listen to the full piece, including current 20-something gamers speaking about the upside of playing video games as children. Here’s a bit:
Tully started playing video games when he was still in preschool, first driving games because he was obsessed with cars, and then more elaborate games of exploration and battle.
His game-playing sparked the only major parenting conflict I’ve ever had with my husband, a software developer who’s worked on games and wanted to introduce Tully to their fun challenges. As a mother, I felt all my alarms going off: too much violence, too much screen time. At one point I even played the crack-cocaine card, as in: “You’re introducing our child to the media equivalent of crack cocaine!”
But then my attitude began to shift. Tully picked up reading early because he so wanted to decipher instructions on the screen. He started to spout historical facts. And he played one particular spelling game, “Bookworm,” that was undeniably violent but also clearly educational — and I loved it. You got a grid of letters, and the longer a word you spelled, the harder you got to clobber a mythical enemy. Continue reading
If you want to start an online fight, suggest that playing video games might be bad for kids. You’ll be flooded by commenters who declare, “I’ve played for hours a day and there’s nothing wrong with me!”
Or suggest that video games might not be bad for kids. You’ll be flooded by commenters pointing out that the link between violent games and aggressive behavior is one of the most replicated findings in social science.
So here’s the latest data point to add fuel to the fight. The respected journal Pediatrics reports that a Yale study of more than 4,000 adolescents found that the majority of them played video games and that the health effects appeared to differ by gender: In boys, video gaming generally correlated with no negative health effects, and even seemed linked to less smoking. In girls, however, gaming generally correlated with fighting at school, and bringing in weapons. (Girls bringing weapons to school? Is this the Lara Croft effect?)
Pediatrics reports here that in a small subset, gaming did appear linked to problems:
Although most adolescents appear to be gaming without any ill effects, in a small proportion the behavior becomes problematic, notes Desai. Of those surveyed, 4.9% reported that they had trouble cutting back on their gaming, felt an irresistible urge to play, or experienced tension that could only be relieved by playing. Boys were more likely to report problems (5.8%) than girls (3.0%). In this group, problematic gaming was linked to regular cigarette smoking, drug use, depression and serious fights in both boys and girls. Continue reading