Impacts of Playing Video Games on Learning in Children

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Literature Synthesis for Applying Research
Impacts of playing video games on learning in children
EDIT 6900
Dr. Janette Hill
Spring 2006
March 29, 2006
Myoungjin Yang Tollett
Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
It has been fascinating for me to watch my 6-year old nephew playing video games since he was three. Many family members have expressed their concerns regarding the number of hours he spends playing video games, about consequences related to his social and behavioral development, and so forth. Thus far, we see no negative influence in his social and behavioral outcomes. According to his mother, he learns Bible stories by playing video games, and he has even learned how to read through a video game. His mother who is a high school teacher is a strong believer in using computer or video games for children in learning. She also stated that more educationally structured computer or video games are needed for young children. Ironically, the video games that taught my nephew how to read were not considered “educational” games. I have another nephew with severe learning disabilities, Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) being one of them. The only thing that keeps him focused and stable for more than 30 minutes is playing computer or video games. His caregiver has tried different games to engage him with learning. Regardless of the caregiver’s strong belief in using games for him to learn simple arithmetic, he has not made significant progress yet on learning basic mathematics. Nonetheless, the caregiver insists that it is because there are not many computer and video games that are designed for children like my nephew with severe learning disabilities regardless of whether or not the games are educational. It is commonly known that the average attention span in young children or children with learning disabilities is very limited. Considering that, it is amazing to watch my nephews intensively playing video games for hours at a time. According to EDIT 6900 – Literature Synthesis Myoungjin Yang Tollett 1

VanDeventer & White (2002), an average child (not an advanced video game player) may spend from 50 to 300 hours annually playing video games and that by the age of 10, a child may have had thousands of hours of experience with video games. It is no surprise that the video game market grew in annual sales from $100 million in 1985 to $4 billion in 1990 (Emes, 1997) and $7 billion in 2005, more than doubling sales within the software industry since 1996 (Entertainment Software Association, 2006). Today, it is obvious that children spend a lot of time playing video games and their parents spend a lot of resources providing their children or even themselves with video games in America and worldwide. While it does not seem realistic to prohibit children from playing video games, researchers have attempted to answer questions for concerned parents, caregivers and educators: “Are video games harmful to our children?” (Emes, 1997, p.409), “Do children who play video games learn better than peers who do not?” (Din & Calao, 2001, p.98), “Can video games be a useful tool in promoting learning within the classroom?” (Rosas et al., 2003, p.71), “What are the consequences of game play on the cognition of those who play them?” (Squire, 2004, p.34), “Can meaningful learning occur while children play video games?” and so forth. To start exploring the potential impact or implications of playing games at a young age, I informally interviewed several adult game players. They indicated that they started playing video games when they were between 8 and 10 years of age. They stated that they typically prefer playing video games with friends and acknowledged that playing games with friends is a valuable social activity. They also admitted that violent contents or other negative contents might influence young audiences in negative ways. At...
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