Our friends over at the Association for Psychological Science made sure that a new study about video games would get out (because, you know, it’s about video games and kids, and that always seems to get people’s attention), so we took a look and published a news story earlier today about the study.
This, however, is an example of a fairly silly study that provides little additional insight into the impact video games may have in a child’s world.
The researchers compared two groups of boys ages 6-9 — those who received a video game system for the first time in their lives, and those who got none. They found that the boys who got a video game system, unsurprisingly, had lower reading and writing scores at the end of the 4 months study compared to the boys who had no video game system to play after school.
So what they clearly demonstrated is that if you give kids a more engaging or entertaining activity than homework, they may not have the good judgment to engage in the new activity in moderation.
When I was growing up, my parents had to deal with the same problem. But a simple rule solved the problem — no ____________ until your homework is done. Fill in the blank with “video games,” “computer,” “playing outside,” “going over your friend’s house,” etc.
I strived to find where in the study the researchers had accounted for this simple fact of life well-known to virtually any parent alive today. Did they compare the boys with video games to boys who started a new hobby, team sport, or musical instrument? Nope. But that’s a reasonable alternative explanation to their findings. It’s not the video games themselves, but simple the fact that video games represent a more entertaining and engaging option when compared to homework.
So the researchers concluded by saying,
Altogether, our findings suggest that video-game ownership may impair academic achievement for some boys in a manner that has real-world significance.
Really now?! Without having that third arm in this particular study, the researchers can generally draw zero conclusions about their results, other than to note the interesting correlation between the introduction of video game systems in a household and lower test scores.
A correlation, I would imagine, easily removed with the introduction of a small dose of parental guidance and discipline.
Frankly, if I were one the researchers of this study — Robert Weis and Brittany C. Cerankosky of Denison University — I’d be a little ashamed it actually got published. Or I’d at least ensure I didn’t draw any conclusions about what the study found that the methodology and data simply do not support.