A teaching union in Northern Ireland is calling for urgent action over the impact of modern technology on children’s ability to learn at school. The Association of Teacher and Lecturers (ATL) claim that gaming reduces children’s ability to socialise or concentrate properly.
However a recent study by Robert Weis and Brittany Cerankosky (2010) found no support for this belief. This well-designed study of boys aged 6-9 years found that children playing video games were worse off academically but this was simply because they spent time playing games rather than doing their homework.
The study was a randomised control trial. Families were selected who did not have a video-game system already and the child had no history of developmental, behavioural, medical, or learning problems. The boys were given various tests to measure their cognitive abilities (memory, concentration and problem-solving) and were randomly assigned to either a control group (no video games console) or the experimental group who got the video games console.
Four months later the experimental group were not doing as well at school – they had lower reading and writing scores and greater teacher-reported academic problems than control group. However their cognitive performance was unaffected. The observed academic changes were simply due to the fact that the experimental group spent more time playing video games and less time engaged in after-school academic activities than control children. This shows that video gaming does not change mental abilities directly – it doesn’t ‘rot the mind’.