“Vid Kids”

How Screen Time is Affecting Your Children
By Margaret Combs
The Boston Parents Paper – November 1994

Anyone watching a 7-year-old driving the controls of a Nintendo game knows how invested kids are in technology. The flushed cheeks, facial tics, sweating brow, dilated pupils, and hands hammering at buttons with dizzying accuracy indicate kids are not simply intrigued by these electronic devices but are mentally and viscerally “plugged in” to the experience.

This passion for electronic games, arising both in arcades and at home in front of computers and TV screens, is being played out in a youth culture already saturated with “screen time.” Elementary school-age children are watching 28 to 30 hours of television per week, according to the Yale University Family Television Research and Consultation Center. And time in front of the screen is not restricted to the home. In addition to more than half of American schools now using computers, 97 percent have VCRs, according to a 1993 study of children’s media usage by the Yale Center.

Moreover, video games are now considered by business trend forecasters to be an entrenched part of modern culture. In 1988, the sale of Nintendo game sets numbered 14 million. While national statistics are not available, a 1990 survey of children in southern California found 94 percent had played some type of video game at home, or in an arcade, or both. Most of these players are boys between the ages of 9 and 14, but younger children and girls are joining the ranks. In the past three years the percentage of girls buying games from SEGA has jumped from 3 percent up to 20 percent.

Is it all bad?
Parents view this phenonemon with a mixture of awe and befuddlement. Is one screen worse than another? Or are they all, as critics contend, equally poisonous and addictive, fueling aggressive behavior and crippling children’s ability to read and to think?

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