Child Development Research – Media and Achievment

My sweet spot is achievement.  I am an overachiever and come from a family of major overachiever (Rhodes scholar and National Academy Science member are just a few of my family members).  I am fascinated with achievement and want to learn how we can support our children to achieve… not necessarily academic achievement, in fact I think it’s important for children to find the thing that turns them on and then be motivated to achieve within that arena, be it writing comic books, playing basketball or conducting science experiments.

My other sweet spot is media.  I believe that media can motivate children to achieve in positive ways.  Research needs to find out what works, and then share that information with parents, educators, policy makers, and content providers.  And hope we can find out ways that media can motivate children towards prosocial behavior that will also engage them.

So, I am thrilled that a new study has come out studying exactly this arena – media and achievement — for the tween population.  This is one of the most important populations to examine, in my opinion because they are just developing their beliefs about who they are, they discovering the arenas in which they feel competent,  they are venturing away from family to peers and they are frequently using media on their own.

This study was excellent, comprehensive with many participants, age 6-12, and with follow-up after 6 years (Hofferth, 2010).  The findings are extensive so I will just hit a few highlights in this post and then follow-up with more later.

  • Computer time is positively associated with white girl’s achievement. This did not apply for video games however – in fact the reverse was true for video games.  For black girls TV and video games were negatively associated with achievement.
  • For boys, there was no association between computers and achievement.  And playing video games was associated with externalizing behavior problems (no ethnic breakdown so I assume it was the same for all).  Uh-oh.  They didn’t study content though — if these were violent video games, this certainly makes sense based on other research.

I hope you will check in again as I dig deeper into this article.

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