Video Gaming vs Reading- Which Promotes Academic Success the Most?

Video Game JunkieWhich will help you with your academics more: video gaming or reading?  Well no surprise, the winner is…… READING!

In this study (you can read it here… ) 27,000 French teens 14 years old (9th grade) were surveyed on video gaming and reading activities which were then compared to cognitive/school tests. They found little association with video gaming and school performance and a direct link of improved cognitive/school tests with more reading.  Other studies have shown this in the past, although certain video games that are intentionally designed to train in a certain skill can have a positive benefit for that skill or performance measure.

I think it’s important for parents to distinguish between entertainment and learning.  In my childhood, village life in Africa until 3rd grade, then a TV-free and computer- free home until college (also in Africa), my entertainment was all outdoor activity (I wasn’t a natural reader).  When you compare the hours spent a day in learning, study-time, homework, and reading compared to entertainment, you may have a clue to whether or not you are on the right track for your family and children.  I believe in earlier generations there was more unstructured play time, more structured study and homework time and very little entertainment (either passive TV or games on screens).  The “free” time was play time where children were free to explore, be creative, and learn in unique ways that are perhaps lost to the connected world our children live in today.

I am all about technology. I blog daily, YouTube weekly, and am always learning. I do not however spend even a single minute playing computer games or video games- that’s entertainment.  I prefer getting outdoors, exercising, or being with family and friends for my entertainment.

Enough about me.  What can you do as a parent to bring balance into your child’s world when it comes to video games?

If your children are young (before teenager) then you should be able to have total control over what screen time is happening in your home and for your child.  Realize that you are creating habits.  They may be good or bad.  What can you do as a family that doesn’t involve the TV or computer screen or smart phone, tablet, etc.?  Can you get to a park when the weather is good?  Can you have family evening activities, maybe board games? Other?  Can you all go to the gym if the weather is bad? What is available in your community to get you out of the house but also off the grid?  A walk or hike? For sure turn off the TV during meals and don’t have it on as background noise.

Teenagers:  now it starts to get difficult.  I know of family members and patients whose teenagers became addicted to either video games or being connected to social networks by their smart phone, often deep into the night.  If your teenager or adult child is living under your roof, eating your food, and supported by you, then you have a responsibility to make sleep not only a priority but the only thing there is to do after a certain hour.  In our home, phones were collected at a certain time, and during various periods where the Internet was abused, it was turned off after a certain hour.

Before there was Internet 24/7, did we let our teenagers walk around the red-light district of town after dark?  I think not.  Why are we allowing it on the Internet at all hours?

With the added privileges of the connected world comes added responsibility.  Until our children can be mature and responsible, it is our role as parents to provide structure so that this new technology does not destroy them.

Once your teenager has become an excessive user of the Internet or gaming, what can you do?  This is so much more difficult than setting up a structure from the beginning that prevents abuse of the freedoms.

  • Set limits.  Maximum screen time of 2 hours a day (or we did zero during the week and then relaxed on weekends) unless it is specific homework related searches and work.
  • Monitor.  Children and teenagers are not trying to be dishonest, it is natural to want more of what you find pleasurable.  Help them find other avenues for pleasure, and then balance pleasure with work.  I find the boys who have grown up with endless video games are not very effective in the work place.
  • Create.  Have things happening that would interest your children and get them involved in making things happen. If necessary, start your own family YouTube channel and have your teenager be in charge of making it happen!

Remember, it’s not the Internet that is evil, it’s how you use it.

 

Dr. Paul

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