The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

November 19, 2013

Video games aren't bad for kids?

NEW YORK — The holiday shopping season is upon us, and both Sony and Microsoft have just released brand-new, long-awaited video-game consoles, which means that kids will be clamoring for RPGs and first-person shooters even more than usual this year. The eternal question: Are you a bad parent if you let them have them?

A recent study came to a surprising conclusion: Maybe not! The study, published in March and written up in Games and Learning last week, was billed as showing rather conclusively that video games are not bad for kids. The Games and Learning headline: "Game Play Has No Negative Impact on Kids, UK Study Finds." Here's the first paragraph:

A massive study of some 11,000 youngsters in Britain has found that playing video games, even as early as 5 years old, does not lead to later behavior problems.

Hooray! At last, definitive proof that kids can play all the video games they want and suffer no ill effects, right? Clearly that's a piece of news that people are itching to hear: Jane McGonigal, author of a best-selling book arguing that video games are good for us, tweeted her equally exuberant interpretation of the findings, and the response was overwhelming, with some 3,500 retweets.

Not to be a spoilsport, but before we throw in the dustbin a bunch of other studies that have found links between youth screen time and antisocial behavior, it's probably worth, you know, reading the actual paper. Which reveals that, in fact, the researchers did not track 11,000 kids for a decade. Rather, they drew their data from the broader, decade-long U.K. Millennium Cohort Study, but conducted their analysis only on a slice of data that looked at kids once at age 5 and then again at age 7.

I pointed this out to McGonigal, and she acknowledged the mistake, implying that she hadn't yet read the actual paper when she first tweeted about it. Presumably, neither did most of the 3,500 people who retweeted her - nor the authors of several other blog posts and articles that have picked up on Games and Learning's post, including MSN UK, Slashgear, Nintendo Life, Kotaku.au and more. The worst offender so far is the video-game site IGN, which ran with the following absurd headline: "Games Definitely Don't Harm Kids, Says Huge Study."

That is definitely not what the study said.

Rather, the researchers looked specifically at whether kids in the Millennium Cohort Study who played a lot of video games at age 5 had grown substantially worse in their behavior by age 7 compared to those who did not. The behavioral outcomes were based on the kids' mothers' assessments, and the researchers controlled for a wide array of factors, including income and family structure. Their goal: to see whether video games and/or television alone could be linked to negative changes in behavior over a two-year period from age 5 to age 7.

They did find some links between TV screen time and deteriorating behavior, but they did not find a link between video-game time and bad behavior (or ADHD, or emotional problems, or any of the other bugaboos that in the past have been ascribed to childhood screen exposure). Again, that doesn't mean the kids who played lots of video games at age 5 were all perfect angels at age 7, just that they weren't significantly worse than they already were at age 5, once you controlled for a number of other factors. As far as I can tell, the study did not look at all at the effects of video games or TV prior to age 5.

The researchers themselves make no such sweeping claims.

To be clear, I'm not arguing that video games are bad for kids. I'm just pointing out that this study does not prove what quite a lot of people seem to want it to. Sorry, parents. Science is trying to get you an answer, but for now, you're still on your own with this one.

               

          

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • bank1 West End bank robbed

    The West End branch of AmeriServ Financial was robbed Tuesday morning, two days before the branch is scheduled to close.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • weather_2 Old Man Winter returns to area

    Just when you think we’ve finally escaped the cold temperatures, winter swoops back in to remind us it’s not going away just yet.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • City seeks support for sewer revamp

    The city is looking for backup from the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority in spreading what they call “true” facts and figures regarding the city’s encompassing sewer revamp.

    April 15, 2014

  • Airport gets lift with $180G grant

    The John Murtha Johnstown–Cambria County Airport needs to replace some basic maintenance equipment: a pickup truck, painting machine, chain saw, weed eater, hand tools and more.
    So, on Tuesday, the airport’s authority agreed to accept Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bureau of Aviation grant money that already has been tentatively allocated.

    April 15, 2014

  • Cresson asks court to force ex-chief to sign pact

    An agreement reached more than a month ago between Cresson Borough Council and its former police chief still has not been signed, and the borough is asking a judge to intervene.

    April 15, 2014

  • hamer 16 Mom told to seek help for addiction

    A Johnstown woman charged with tossing her 4-month-old baby and with drug-related offenses pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Cambria County court on Tuesday.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Elder justice events set

    In an effort to combat elder abuse in area communities, an elder justice seminar will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 24 at the Johnstown Senior Center, 550 Main St., downtown Johnstown. In addition, a free elder abuse clergy training seminar will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. April 25 at Moxham Lutheran Church, 500 Park Ave., Johnstown.

    April 15, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/16/2014

    April 15, 2014

  • bomb1 VIDEO | A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Freeh gets expedited appeal in Penn State lawsuit

    April 15, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads