This is the fourth in a series about the effects of technology on contemporary parenting.
Q: What are additional ways technology affects child and adolescent development and learning?
A: The Federation of American Scientists claims kids need more, rather than less, video game play. This organization believes students will need more video play to make them more successful in the competitive global market. Games can teach strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, planning, problem solving, execution and adaptation. The FAS states those are the skills employers are seeking more and more in new workers.
Games are used to educate and orient employees around the world by governments, trade organizations and large worldwide corporations. In a recent Entertainment Software Association study, 70 percent of large American employers have used interactive software and games for training. More employers plan to adopt these in the future.
Video games that use two or more players to solve in-game problems encourage teamwork and cooperation. Multiplayer games online offer added atmosphere, depth and enjoyment to complete quests and defeat opponents.
At Washburn University in Topeka, students study the game development process to build skills in teamwork and collaboration. Video games are not made by one person, but by groups of developers. Players have to pool their skills in order to achieve the goal of the video game.
A secondary benefit of video games is the development of confidence in players. They learn new skills, and then the game provides them with opportunities to explore, expand and acquire success with the new skills.
The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine reported a study that found 39 Boston middle-school children who played six different interactive games expended more energy than expected. With the energy expended in the games, two games equaled the energy expended on a treadmill at 3 mph, and four of the gaming activities had higher energy expenditures. In addition, playing games for fun and enjoyment is a good stress reducer.
The Entertainment Software Association recommends family video games to promote communication and cohesion in families. The ESA believes family video games can promote family closeness the way board games and cards provide. Parents who still see video games as solitary pursuits that alienate them from their children are missing a great opportunity to enter into games with their children. According to EAS, 45 percent of parents play video games with their children at least weekly, an increase from 2007 when the percentage was 36.
Jim Taylor, Ph.D., reports in Psychology Today that information overload on the student can contribute to a shorter attention span and lower cognitive development, according to researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Amhurst. Taylor does believe video games and other technology improve reaction times and visual-spacial skills.
In order for technology to be positive, the American Academy of Pediatric recommends the following guidelines. Monitor technology to assure it is educational, not violent in nature; limit technology time for children and teens to two hours a day; make sure children have a good balance between technology and other social and recreation pastimes. Reading books and playing outside remain recommendations for children and teens.
Smartphones have become the icon of technology. They perform multitudinous functions that exceed that of laptops and desktop computers. Mobile phones can access any Internet content computers allow. Smartphones provide private or personal ways for youth to potentially access inappropriate materials from the Internet. They do have parental settings and controls, if implemented.
One of the greatest parental concerns is children and teens reveal too much personal information online. Risks from revealing too much can include cyberbullying, inappropriate online contacts, identity theft and the sexual seduction of minors.
Sexting is the exchange of sexually suggestive messages and pictures that are consensual. But when relationships end, or when conflicts develop, personal communications can end up online with no control by the person being victimized. Minors are prohibited by law from transmitting or possessing sexual images, whether theirs or someone else’s. Since there is now a capability for smartphones to pinpoint locations of smartphone users at any time, children and adolescents can be tracked easily.
Another negative use of smartphones is late-night texting, which can interfere with school by leading students into chronic fatigue and a decrease in school performance. Mobile phones also are desirable objects for theft, and so any content can be accessed by others.
Research funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation for a research study in the Children and Technology Project looked at three issues. Is creativity in children related to parent attitude? Is creativity related to technology use? Is parent behavior related to their children’s creativity?
Participants were 490 parents and 490 middle-school students from 20 middle schools throughout the Lower Peninsula in Michigan. An additional 100 parents and their 100 children were recruited from an after-school program in Detroit.
The research revealed parent behavior of warmth, control and monitoring was unrelated to children’s use of computers, the Internet, cellphones and video games. Secondly, children’s creativity was related to one technology — playing video games. More video games playing correlated positively with more creativity, controlling for sex, age, race and household income.
Third, children’s creativity was unrelated to parental behavior. Parental behavior did not relate to any child outcome measured in this particular research. More research is needed about the relationship of creativity to the use of video games in children and teens.
• Next week’s discussion will focus on the effects of technology on development and learning.
Judy Caprez is professor emeritus at Fort Hays State University.