Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Video games and reading ability

Kids 6 to 9 who get PS2 video game systems at home progress less in reading ability over a 4-month period than kids without them. It's not the game; it just replaces other activities like homework and reading. This was a randomized trial.
Diaries kept by the boys' parents revealed that the negative aspects of video gaming were due to the fact that the kids with games spent a lot of time playing on them. The control group would occasionally get their hands on a joypad at a friend's house, but such opportunities only took up an average of 9 minutes a day. Instead, they spent around 32 minutes a day on after-school academic activities. By comparison, the boys who had their own games spent 40 minutes a day with them and only 18 minutes a day on after-school learning. After adjusting for these differences in work-play balance, the link between video games and reading or writing skills vanished.
This displacement explanation also explains why the boys' maths scores were unaffected - they simply don't have many maths-based leisure activities for video games to displace. Reading books is one thing but it's hard to imagine children rolling out the arithmetic worksheets for pleasure.

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