Researchers have discovered what has long been known to parents — activities that compete with homework can affect a child’s grades. So finds new research that studied the impact of introducing a video game system into a household that previously did not have one.
The study was designed to study the short-term effects of video game ownership on the academic development of boys. The researchers found that after the introduction of video games into a family, the boys’ reading and writing scores suffered.
The researchers recruited families who didn’t currently own a video game system, but were considering buying one.
Participants in the study — boys ages 6 to 9 — completed intelligence tests as well as reading and writing assessments. In addition, the boys’ parents and teachers filled out questionnaires relating to their behavior at home and at school.
Half of the families were selected to receive a video-game system (along with three, age-appropriate video games) immediately, while the remaining families were promised a video-game system four months later, at the end of the experiment. Over the course of the four months, the parents recorded their children’s activities from the end of the school day until bedtime. At the four-month time point, the children repeated the reading and writing assessments and parents and teachers again completed the behavioral questionnaires.
The results of this study showed that the boys who received the video-game system immediately spent more time playing video games and less time engaged in after-school academic activities than boys who received the video-game system at the end of the experiment. Furthermore, the boys who received the video-game system at the beginning of the study had significantly lower reading and writing scores four months later compared with the boys receiving the video-game system later on.
Although there were no differences in parent-reported behavioral problems between the two groups of kids, the boys who received the video-game system immediately had greater teacher-reported learning problems.
Further analysis revealed that the time spent playing video games may link the relationship between owning a video-game system and reading and writing scores. These findings suggest that video games may be displacing after-school academic activities and may impede reading and writing development in young boys.
The authors note that when children have problems with language at this young age, they tend to have a tougher time acquiring advanced reading and writing skills later on.
Because the researchers did not study a third group — say, boys who took up a new sport or a musical instrument as a new after-school activity — the researchers could not determine if the lower scores they found was simply the result of the displacement of time or the video games themselves.
Oddly, however, the researchers — Robert Weis and Brittany C. Cerankosky of Denison University — still concluded in the article, “Altogether, our findings suggest that video-game ownership may impair academic achievement for some boys in a manner that has real-world significance.”
The study was published in the journal, Psychological Science.
Source: Association for Psychological Science