“Usually experts focus on the obesity issue when it comes to video games,” acknowledges Clachar. “However what’s not discussed enough is how video games hinder children’s mental development, literally rewiring them so it becomes harder for them to problem solve, plan ahead, manage their emotions and learn.”
In 2001, researchers at Tohoku University in Japan compared brain activity between children doing math problems or reading aloud and children playing video games. They found that while video games involved parts of the brain connected to movement and vision, it did not involve the frontal lobe.
In contrast, the other two activities involved this part of the brain. The frontal lobe is responsible for enabling people to plan ahead, govern their behavior, problem solve and learn.
Lead researcher Ryuta Kwashima noted his surprise at the results since they were actually designing the study to help demonstrate how video games can help with learning. And consequently Mr. Kwashima went on to present his findings at educational conferences, urging parents to keep their children off video games.
“As this study and others have shown, video games do not involve key parts of the brain critical for developing a responsible and innovative person,” notes Clachar. “Your brain is like a muscle. When you don’t use it, you lose it. It literally weakens and shrinks. Many researchers have expressed concern that this lack of engagement of the frontal lobe may lead to poor development in this area. In other words, we may be raising a generation incapable of judgement and proactive problem solving.”
As Clachar points out on her website, there are plenty of alternatives that nurture the frontal lobe. Chief among these activities is exercise. Studies conducted in Georgia on obese children have shown that even a month of exercise increases frontal lobe development and improves math and reading skills without additional tutoring.
“Essentially I’m urging parents to give their children the gift of a future,” says Clachar. “In my own son, I saw the effects of video game playing on his inability to focus or do chores responsibly. As soon as we stopped his access to the games, his behavior changed dramatically. Give your children more by not giving them this gift this season.”
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