The Influence of Video Games on Youth: Implications for Learning in the New Millennium Karen E. Dill Lenoir-Rhyne College
The Influence of Videogames on Youth The Influence of Video Games on Youth: Implications for Learning in the New Millennium Like any medium, videogames are a channel of communication whose effects
vary widely with the content of the specific game in question. Experimental, longitudinal and meta-analytic data indicate that playing violent video games increases aggression, hostility, and aggressive thoughts (Anderson, Buckley, & Gentile, 2007; Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Anderson, Carnagey, Flanagan, Benjamin, Eubanks & Valentine, 2004; Anderson & Dill, 2000). Games with positive content show positive effects. For example, playing a dancing video game can help children lose weight (Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution, 2007; O’Hannon, 2007; Epstein, Beecher, Graf & Roemmich, 2007). Video Games, Motivation, and Addiction Television is still the most popular form of media with youth (Roberts & Foehr, 2004). Although educational videos have been used for decades in the classroom, there are reasons to believe that interactive media are more powerful teachers on several levels. B. F. Skinner discovered many of the principles of a powerful learning paradigm called Operant Conditioning. The very nature of interactive media means they provide an excellent model for learning (Dill & Dill, 1998). Specifically, video games use mostly positive reinforcement on a schedule that is known to reinforce habit strength (Braun & Giroux, 1989; Dill & Dill, 1998). The Energization Theory of motivation and emotion (e.g., Brehm, Wright, Solomon, Silka, & Greenberg, 1983) predicts effort and energy mobilization to be greatest for a difficult, but possible task where success is rewarded. Videogames are an excellent example of what this theory of motivation predicts to be the most highly motivating tasks (Dill & Dill, 1998). Gentile and Gentile (in press) call video
The Influence of Videogames on Youth games “exemplary teachers,” noting the following seven exemplary dimensions of video games: 1) clear objectives with adaptable difficulty levels, 2) active learning with practice and feedback, 3) over-learning to gain mastery, 4) extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, 5) increasing difficulty across levels where past learning can be applied 6) close-to-optimal combination of massed versus distributed practice and 7) learning that can be applied to different problems and contexts. As early as the 1980s, researchers began considering whether videogame play is addictive (Dill & Dill, 1998). Egli and Myers (1984) identified “compulsive” behaviors
associated with video game play, finding that about 13% of the adolescents they surveyed sacrificed other activities and compulsively invested money and time in gaming. Braun and Giroux (1989, p. 101) called video games “the perfect paradigm for induction of ‘addictive’ behavior.” A psychotherapist (Klein, 1984) noticed that some of his teenaged clients exhibited what he would term addictive behavior regarding video game play (e.g., stealing money or spending lunch money to play videogames). Suler (2004) provides a balanced view of cyber addictions, noting that some level of devotion to a hobby is healthy, but that in pathological addictions, the bad outweighs the good. Negative Social Effects of Video Games: Violence, Sex, and Race Because research consistently shows that most popular video games are violent (Buchman & Funk, 1996; Burgess, Stermer & Burgess (in press); Provenzo, 1991; Dill, Gentile, Richter & Dill, 2005; Dill & Thill, in press, Funk, 1993; Lachlan, Smith & Tamborini, 2005) and because of the potential harm to children, youth and society of this negative influence, much video game research has focused on the effects of violent video games. Modeled after the extensive literature on television violence effects, the violent...