Wake Up Call! Digital Addiction Killing Learning Abilities of Kids


Both adults and children are increasingly self-absorbed in their digital domains posing challenges to parenting and schooling that require to be treated with empathy and sensitivity

A UK school’s decision to confiscate XBoxes and Playstations from students in an attempt to improve their academic performance and attentiveness in classrooms has triggered an interesting debate. The school administration justified the move stating that teachers complained that overnight gaming was leaving students exhausted in classrooms. Many parents also approached the school demanding that the administration take the initiative in confiscating the XBoxes and Playstations until the students behaved better and their grades improved. With children growing up in an environment where personal computers, mobile phones, gaming consoles, social media, and video-streaming have become all-pervasive, the impact that this entertainment-driven digital revolution will have on their learning abilities, social interactions and physical health is yet to be fully understood.

The use of gaming consoles by children has its share of proponents and critics among educators. One section believes that the education system, based heavily on textbooks, has stagnated, and must synchronise itself with the advancements made in digital technology and introduce gaming in classroom-based learning. They argue that these games foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In 2011, a gaming research firm, NPD Group, found that a whopping 91 per cent of American children in the 2-17 age-group played video or computer games. In contrast, the critics argue that gaming promotes hyperactivity, violence and disinterest in classroom-learning. While supporters argue that children addicted to gaming learn to confront greater challenges, the critics say that there is immense peer pressure on every child in classrooms to catch up with the leader of the gaming pack.

A study was conducted in Perth in Australia monitoring sedentary behaviour and daily physical activity in 10-12 year old kids, where they were put through eight weeks each of access to normal gaming consoles, total denial of access to the consoles, and selective access to electronic games that were activity-based and interactive. The study revealed significant increase in daily physical activity when the children were completely weaned away from the consoles or put on “active” electronic games. Technology is now an important factor in children’s lives. Educators face the hard choice between a disciplinarian approach of imposing stringent embargoes on giving children access to gaming consoles or integrating video games into the educational curriculum. With adults hooked to electronic devices, like television sets in the earlier generation, they have little credibility when demanding that children sacrifice their electronic entertainment avenues.

Before the advent of digital technologies, the predominant criticism against the education system was that learning had become bookish and by-rote and that students were losing touch with nature and practical applications. Now, students are losing their connect with books and the written word, and much of their social interactions have also shifted to digital social networks. These are evolutionary changes and the education system cannot afford to ignore these changes. Younger children are being exposed to knowledge, insights and experiences like sexuality and individuality that are normally acquired during adolescence. In a globalised world, India has not escaped any of these changes. Both adults and children are increasingly self-absorbed in their digital domains posing challenges to parenting and schooling that require to be treated with empathy and sensitivity. With the UK school’s actions receiving international attention, it is tempting to implement a similar strategy across the board. Rather, what is required is more research into the impact of gaming on children’s minds and craft responses that are suited to the cultural milieu that children are growing up in.



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