Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Are video games bad for you? Most people agree that gaming affects teens--the question is how

You've gathered wood, built a shelter, and armed yourself against the spiders, zombies, and skeletons that attack at night. But could all that time spent protecting yourself on Minecraft actually hurt you in real life?

More than 90 percent of American kids play video games an average of two hours a day. In recent years, psychologists have linked gaming to everything from increased aggression to shortened attention spans.

Other researchers, however, have found that playing video games can have some positive effects. Some psychologists say that gaming helps teens learn, become more understanding of other people's feelings, and improve their overall outlook on life.

Do America's teens need to start powering off? JS spoke with experts on both sides of the issue.


[YES] Games Are Harmful

Playing certain video games makes teens more likely to drive dangerously, smoke cigarettes, and engage in other risky behaviors, according to a recent study by Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Other research has linked violent video games with increased hostility and aggression.

"If you're playing a lot of violent video games, you're practicing being [aware of your] enemies," says Douglas Gentile, a psychologist at Iowa State University. "When you get bumped in the hallway, you stop assuming it was an accident."

Gamers tend to respond with aggression because certain video games, such as Grand Theft Auto, reward retaliation, he says.

Even nonviolent games can be harmful, critics say. About 6 percent of gamers are addicted, doing poorly in school and becoming withdrawn as a result, says psychologist David Greenfield of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in Connecticut.

(Video games can also make it difficult to stay focused at school.

"The more time kids spend playing video games," Gentile says, "the worse their attention problems seem to get."

Video games use features like flickering lights to catch your attention. That means it takes more of an effort to maintain your concentration when you're not playing, Gentile adds.

Many gamers, including Jack Perez, a sixth-grader from Pennsylvania, admit that it can be hard to cut back on playing video games.

"You can't just stop," he says,

Plus, the time teens spend playing video games is time not spent being active, experts point out.

"If you spend 8, 9, 10 hours a day gaming," Greenfield says, "the only thing you're moving is your finger."

[NO] Games Are Good

Teens who play up to an hour of video games a day are actually better off than teens who don't play at all, according to a recent study by Andrew K. Przybylski of the University of Oxford in England.

Przybylski found that gamers have fewer emotional problems and are less hyperactive than non-gamers. Kids who play video games for up to an hour a day also tend to be more social than those who don't play at all, he says.

Video games can also reinforce computer literacy, math and English skills, and knowledge of history, says Kurt Squire, co-director of the Games Learning Society in Wisconsin. More than 2,500 schools worldwide use Minecraft to build math skills and to teach history, biology, architecture, engineering, and other subjects. Studies have shown that games in which players help other characters boost kids' empathy and cooperative behavior.

Gaming can also improve reaction times and hand-eye coordination, which can help prepare teens for future careers. One study found that surgeons who played certain video games finished surgeries faster and made fewer errors than their non-gaming counterparts.

Playing video games--even violent ones--is also a great way for teens to wind down, says Chris Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University in Florida who has studied gaming's therapeutic effects.

"It seems to be an activity that soothes people and can reduce their stress," Ferguson tells JS. "They have a bad day, they play, they feel better afterward."

Plus, most kids are mature enough to play responsibly, says Phoebe Block, an eighth-grader from New York City. She plays video games for about two hours a day.

"It doesn't distract me," she says. "I still do all my work. "

$20.5 billion Total amount Americans spent on video games in 2013

SOURCE: Forbes

DEBATE Lexile score: 1200L

Are Video Games Bad for You?

Pages 20-21


OBJECTIVE Students will read a debate and identify the claim, reasons, and supporting evidence on each side.

KEY STANDARDS RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.S, RI.6-8.8, RH.6-8.10

TIME FRAME Approximately one class period

ARTICLE SUMMARY This debate addresses the question of whether video games are bad for kids. More than 90 percent of American kids play video games an average of two hours a day. Some experts say video games make teens more likely to drive dangerously, smoke cigarettes, and engage in other risky behaviors. They also say video games are linked to hostility, aggression, and shortened attention spans. Other experts say video games are good for kids because they reinforce computer literacy, math and English skills, and knowledge of history. Studies have also shown that video games improve reaction times and hand-eye coordination.



1 Create a T-chart (5 minutes)

Begin by surveying your class to see how many students play video games and for how long each day. Then have students create a T-chart listing the pros and cons of playing video games.

2 Full-class discussion (5 minutes)

Discuss the pros and cons students listed in their T-charts. Then ask students what makes video games so popular.


3 Independent reading do minutes)

Have students read the article independently, underlining the reasons and supporting evidence given for each side of the debate. Students should write any comments or questions in the margins.



4 How is an argument organized? (5 MINUTES)

Tell students that they will be looking specifically at how an argument is organized. Discuss the terms claim, reasons, and evidence and where each would fall in a well-written argument. Discuss why it's important for an argument to be well structured and organized with those three main components.

Teaching Tip

For students who are more experienced with argumentative writing, include the term counterclaim and discuss where it would fit in a strong argument.

5 Skills sheet: "Identifying the Parts of an Argument" (20 MINUTES)

Pass out the skills sheet, which can be downloaded from the Printables section of Allow students to complete the skills sheet in pairs. Then have them share their answers with the class. Don't forget to have students cast their debate votes online.

6 Extension: Write the rules

Ask students to create a list of rules for gaming based on their own experience and the information from the article. Discuss whether their rules would be different for an 8-year-old versus a 16-year-old and, if so, why.


Lower Level Read the first side of the debate together, stopping to annotate and interact with the text as a class.

Higher Level Have students create a counterargument for each reason in the debate.


Did students successfully read a debate and identify the claim, reasons, and supporting evidence on each side?

Anastasia, Laura

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