The siren song of the screen
Some parents and teachers blame video games for contributing to boys' lower achievement in reading and writing, and now there is some evidence to support that theory. A 2010 study by Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University in Granville, OH, found a link between the use of video game systems and lower reading and writing scores. The research showed that video games were “displacing” other after-school activities that might have had more educational value.
Of course, video games aren't the only electronic entertainment vying for boys’ attention. Computers, phones, iPads, and other mobile devices all keep boys connected to games, videos, friends, and other distractions — everything but reading.
Many parents wonder if shutting off the screens would motivate boys to pick up a book instead. Weis’ advice to parents is to work toward creating some balance between reading and the activities boys consider more fun.
“I don't think there is much promise in blaming video games,” adds Wilhelm. “We have to find out why they are engaging to kids and then bridge from this to other activities that will also be rewarding for them.”
Teachers, he suggests, need to adopt a similar approach, and, for example, assign activities and projects related to the book the class is reading, instead of expecting them to enjoy sitting and talking about the book.
Wilhelm also points out that boys “experience video games as stories," and suggests that schools figure out ways to use the games as a resource to get them interested in narrative.
Teens like Sanjay Mahboobani not only find gaming more exciting than reading, they say it's more social, too. “Reading is more of an individual hobby,” he says, “and I like to be with a group of people rather than by myself.”