Point & counterpoint on young video gamers: 2 studies

By Anne Collier

What an interesting point and counterpoint about videogames have been turned up by two just-released studies, one from Northwestern University in the US and one by University of Victoria in Canada:

On the one hand: “Parents assess video games more negatively than television, computers, and mobile devices. More parents rate video games as having a negative effect on children’s reading, math, speaking skills, attention span, creativity, social skills, behavior, physical activity, and sleep than any other medium,” write the authors of “Parenting in the Digital Age” at Northwestern (stay tuned for more of their findings).

On the other hand: When asked by the Toronto Globe & Mail about teens’ video game play, Kathy Sanford, author of the Canadian study said:

“What we found [after following a group of 13-to-17-year-old videogamers for five years] was that what they were learning was a whole lot deeper and more profound than we had imagined, or that you can see from watching them. They are doing a lot of problem solving and strategizing. They are learning collaboration and leadership skills. But the most profound thing that got me really thinking about their civic engagement is that they are actively making ethical and moral decisions all the time. They are trying out roles through the characters in the stories. If they act badly, if they choose to be evil, they see the significant results of each of the decisions they make.”

I’ll shortly be blogging about both studies more, but I found this contrast interesting, and I hope parents concerned about frequent media reports about videogames’ negative effects might find some comfort – or at least some talking points for further discussion – in Dr. Sanford’s findings, because she also told the Globe & Mail that “educators and parents need to learn about this world if they hope to connect with kids who are comfortable moving in an alternative landscape.”

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