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The impact of computer use on children's and - Children's Digital ...

The impact of computer use on children's and - Children's Digital ...

14 space. Skills in

14 space. Skills in utilizing two-dimensional representations ong>ofong> hypothetical space are central to a variety ong>ofong> ong>computerong> applications, including programming and ong>computerong> and video games. As these skills may be important to being able to ``read'' and utilize the information on ong>computerong> screens, repeated practice on these applications (particularly ong>computerong> and video games) may enhance selected spatial skills. Overall, the research suggests that spatial skills are related to video game playing (Greenfield, 1996; Okagaki & Frensch, 1994; Subrahmanyam and Greenfield, 1996). 4 In a study ong>ofong> 10-1/2- to 11-1/2-year-olds, Subrahmanyam and Greenfield (1996) found that practice on a ong>computerong> game (Marble Madness) reliably improved spatial performance (e.g., anticipating targets, extrapolating spatial paths) compared to practice on a ong>computerong>ized word game called Conjecture. Marble Madness involved guiding a marble along a 3dimensional grid using a joystick, skills that are key components ong>ofong> visual spatial tasks. Not every video or ong>computerong> game will help develop any or all spatial skills. Computer game playing will only enhance a particular spatial skill if the game utilizes that skill. In principle, skills can only be enhanced by game playing if these skills have reached a certain level ong>ofong> maturation. However, to our knowledge, only one study comparing the cognitive ong>impactong> ong>ofong> games on children ong>ofong> different ages has been carried out and they found no changes in effects between fifth, seventh, and ninth grade students (McClurg & Chaille, 1987). All three age groups showed improved mental rotation, a spatial skill, as a result ong>ofong> playing two ong>computerong> games. 3.2. Iconic skills Another skill embodied in ong>computerong> games is iconic or analog representation Ð or the ability to read images, such as pictures and diagrams. Indeed images are frequently more important than words in many ong>computerong> games. In a cross-cultural study carried out in Rome and Los Angeles, Greenfield, Camaioni et al. (1996) found that playing a ong>computerong> game shifted representational styles from verbal to iconic. In the study, undergraduate students played the game Concentration either on a ong>computerong> or on a board. Those who had played the game on the ong>computerong> ong>useong>d more diagrams in their descriptions ong>ofong> an animated ong>computerong> simulation, whereas those who played the game on a board ong>ofong>fered more verbal descriptions. Both iconic and spatial representations are crucial to scientific and technical thinking; these modes ong>ofong> representation enter into the utilization ong>ofong> all kinds ong>ofong> ong>computerong> applications. 3.3. Visual attention K. Subrahmanyam et al. / Applied Developmental Psychology 22 (2001) 7±30 Another skill incorporated in playing ong>computerong> and video games is divided visual attention, the skill ong>ofong> keeping track ong>ofong> a lot ong>ofong> different things at the same time. Greenfield, deWinstanley, Kilpatrick, and Kaye (1996) explored the effect ong>ofong> video game expertise on 4 For an in depth discussion ong>ofong> video game effects, please see Greenfield, P. M. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.) (1996). Interacting with video. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. (Reprinted from Journal ong>ofong> Applied Developmental Psychology, 15 (1), 1994) (reprint; Special Issue: Effects ong>ofong> interactive entertainment technologies on development).

K. Subrahmanyam et al. / Applied Developmental Psychology 22 (2001) 7±30 15 strategies for divided visual attention among college students. Divided attention was measured by measuring participants' response time to two events ong>ofong> varying probabilities at two locations on a ong>computerong> screen. Participants who were expert ong>computerong> game players had faster response times than novices. Playing an action game also improved strategies for keeping track ong>ofong> events at multiple locations. Overall the study showed that more skilled video game players had better developed attentional skills than less skilled players. Although this research focong>useong>d on college students, ong>computerong> and video game playing could have similar effects on children and help develop the skills for occupations that require expertise in divided visual attention (e.g., instrument flying, military activities, and air traffic control). However, there is no research that actually documents a link between video game playing, attentional skills, and success in academic performance or specific occupations. Furthermore, much ong>ofong> the research on the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong> games on cognitive skills has only measured the effects ong>ofong> game playing immediately after practice, and does not address questions about the cumulative ong>impactong> ong>ofong> interactive games on cognition. Nonetheless, selective increases in nonverbal or performance IQ (Flynn, 1994) scores during the last century seem to relate, in part, to the proliferation ong>ofong> imagery and electronic technologies in the environment that has occurred in this period ong>ofong> time (Greenfield, 1998). Many ong>computerong> games develop the same skills that are tested in nonverbal IQ tests such as the Wechsler and the Stanford±Binet. Okagaki and Frensch (1996) found improvements in the skill ong>ofong> spatial visualization among males as a result ong>ofong> playing the video game Tetris. ong>Theong> skill ong>ofong> spatial visualization developed by the video game Tetris and the Object Assembly subtests ong>ofong> the Wechsler intelligence tests for children and adults are similar. Future experimental research should be designed to test whether there is a direct, causal connection between repeated ong>computerong> game playing and rise in nonverbal IQ performance. 4. Home ong>computerong> ong>useong> and academic performance In this section we examine the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong> ong>useong> on children's performance in academic areas such as math, science, language arts, and writing. Teenagers in the HomeNet sample reported that the most common educational ong>useong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong>s was simple word processing for school assignments. In addition, students ong>useong>d links to the web to find information for various class reports. For example, one student found information on Pittsburgh's role in the underground railroad for a Black history month assignment. While students in clubs (e.g., the school newspaper) sometimes ong>useong>d Internet communication to coordinate meetings or to distribute shared materials (e.g., assignments or stories), this was far less common than using the ong>computerong> for writing, printing, and research. Stand-alone educational song>ofong>tware programs aimed at fostering children's creative expression, memory, and spatial awareness were ong>useong>d even less frequently. Surveys indicate that parents generally believe ong>computerong>s to be an educational resource. According to Turow (1999), 70% ong>ofong> the parents in hoong>useong>holds with ong>computerong>s said that children can discover fascinating and ong>useong>ful things on the Internet and 60% said that children without access to the Internet were at a disadvantage compared to their peers who had Internet

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