Those who believe that technology is the future of education might be surprised by a report issued by Britain’s Office for National Statistics. Data shows that kids who play video games in excess of four hours every day report lower levels of “wellbeing” than their peers who spend 60 minutes or less gaming.
Still, statistics indicate that both video games and social media – another notorious time-eater – do contribute to kids’ social development. Kids who are too shy to effectively engage their peers in face-to-face communication find it easier to do so over the internet. Likewise, playing games together has been shown to strengthen friendships and other social ties.
All this doesn’t mean that parents can absolve themselves of keeping a close eye on how much time their kids are spending in front of the TV or computer.
The conclusions come just days after a leading academic warned that a generation of children risks growing up with obsessive personalities, poor self-control, short attention spans and little empathy because of an addiction to social networking websites such as Twitter. Baroness Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, said a decline in physical human contact meant children struggled to formulate basic social skills and emotional reactions.
Greenfield claimed that brains of children who were exposed to video technology too early failed to properly develop as they aged.
The problem of overexposure is particularly acute in light of the fact that nearly 80% of children in England now have access to a personal computer, with at least 16% having the sole use of a digital gadget located in their room. A similar number of children also have access to an internet-capable mobile phone.
Separate data showed that six per cent of children aged 10-to-15 used online chatrooms or played games consoles for more than four hours on an average school day. But the report – published as part of an ongoing investigation into national wellbeing – said: “While playing games consoles and chatting on social media sites can enhance children’s recreational and networking experiences, there are risks with excessive usage.”
Even while an ever larger number of districts introduce tablets like iPads into elementary school classrooms, experts are warning against overuse both in school and at home, because too little research has been done on the impact of exposure to video screens on childhood development. There have, however, been studies that have linked large amount of exposure to “stimulating” technology to future developmental delays.