New research on young boys, published in Psychological Science in March 2010, suggests playing video games may retard the academic progress of young boys.
We reported recently on teenagers and video games. This new research focused on a younger population, boys between the ages of 6 - 9, and found that those who were given video-game systems had significantly worse reading and writing scores at the end of a four-month period than boys without the games.
Math skills were not affected.
The researchers do not claim playing video games inherently causes lower academic performance. It's possible that boys armed with PlayStations and other video game systems might simply be choosing to spend less time developing their reading and writing skills and more time trying to up their game scores.
Most kids have access to a video game system. The odds a child 2 - 11 in a household with a TV has access to a video game console are 1 in 1.41 (71%).
The findings tend to contradict, or at least qualify, the idea that video games can actually be a boon to young minds, as expressed, for example, in Steven Johnson's 2006 book, Everything Bad is Good for You. Some studies have shown that games can be useful learning tools in areas like math, and even improve scientific thinking and fine motor skills.
But the new results aren't the first to show a correlation between video games and poor academic results. A Michigan State University study from 2009 showed 12-year-olds who played video games had lower grade point averages.
Gaming had the opposite effect on the 12-year-olds' visual-spatial skills. Those improved.
But while breeding the next cutting-edge surgeon (or 3D animator) is important, boys have long lagged behind their female peers in verbal development-and now there's evidence that playing Katamari Forever might only make the situation worse.
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Posted By: Jon Sobel
IStock Photo 527647 © Menno van Dijk