I get a lot of emails from people who want me to link to their stuff. You’d be surprised how much of it I click on. Just to see. I am always scared I’ll miss something good. I often get emails from this place that specializes in making graphic representations of stuff. The company is great at knowing what people want to read about. They recently sent me one about video game addiction, which I care about because in our house we have unlimited video games.
The graphic is a predictable bunch of data, about how boys are going to hell—addicted to video games, low SAT scores, high levels of Adderal prescriptions, blah blah. But there was one slide that blew me away. This one, up top. It shows that as video game time skyrocketed, the amount of time kids read books has remained largely the same.
The idea that if you took away Minecraft kids would read more books is just wrong. Kids are reading plenty of books. They are just playing cool games during downtime instead of playing kick the can. There are phenomenal explanations from professor of literacy Brian Cambourne to show how natural learning is endemic to the process of playing video games. He argues that it’s so easy to engage in natural learning with video games that it behooves teachers to start using them throughout the school day.
Linguist and literacy maven James Paul Gee writes stuff that’s hard to read but easy to find inspiring, like, that children need a “multimodal principal for learning, which means knowledge is built up through various modalities like images, text, symbols and sound.” This is what the intelligentsia spew when they want to let their kids play video games all day.
But what about kick the can? I want to tell you about kick the can when I was growing up. It was torture. It was cliquey, and the older kids were constantly making out when they were supposed to be looking for an opportunity to kick. It was embarrassing to find them. Later, it was exciting to be them. But my point is that I’m pretty sure I would have felt safer and more engaged if I had been playing a video game. Not that there were any games that interested girls when I was a kid.
All this makes me happy because I get very nervous letting my kids have unlimited video game time. It’s nice to know that the links about the perils of video game addiction are actually soothing to my parental guilt.