Video Games and TV: Do They Make Kids Smarter?
An author makes a case that popular culture is beneficial for the mind.
Pop Culture and Intelligence continued...
For example, while Dallas, a popular 1980s nighttime soap opera
chronicled the misadventures of one family, the show 24 actually
tracks four families. And instead of fighting for control of the family
business as they did on Dallas, the characters of 24 are
trying to simultaneously save or destroy the president or the world.
Johnson has two boys, aged 2 and almost 4. "They like to watch DVDs --
all the Pixar movies, for instance, plus the classics such as Winnie The
Pooh and Mary Poppins, but mostly they just want to play with
their Thomas the Tank Engine train set," he says.
"In some ways, what they're doing now with the Thomas trains is what
they'll be doing in a few years with their video games: mastering a complex
system, learning all the different characters, building an environment, and
exploring it together," he tells WebMD.
"Compared to the popular culture 30 years ago, you have to 'think' more
to engage with today's entertainment: you have to make decisions, express your
own ideas, analyze more complicated storylines," he says. "It's a kind
of mental exercise, not unlike the mental exercise you get from, say, playing
chess," Johnson says.
TV as a Learning Tool
"It is my contention that TV is, as it was intended to be, a learning
tool," says Patricia A. Farrell, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Englewood
Cliffs, N.J., and a medical consultant for the N.J. Department of Disability.
"The Apprentice is, in my view, a great training medium for
entering the dog-eat-dog world of big business," she says. "It teaches
interviewing skills, planning, group participation, and all those things we
know work well in a corporate environment."
"Video games can provide valuable hand-eye coordination and develop
skills of strategy and anticipation," says Farrel, author of How to Be
Your Own Therapist. "You can play chess and, perhaps, develop some
similar skills, but most kids prefer to be active and the video games fit the
Kevin Leman, a psychologist in Tucson, Ariz., and author of several books
including the recent Home Court Advantage: Preparing Your Children to Be
Winners in Life, says that Johnson's ideas are doing a tremendous
disservice. "We are pushing kids ahead emotionally for things that they are
not ready for," says this father of five, referring to some of the
tumultuous dramas on television.
"I think adults have taken the license to say 'it's no big deal and kids
can make their own choices,'" he says. But "kids are like a delicate
plant. We don't expose them to everything, we protect them," he says.