July 14, 2014

The Clash Between Video Games and Reading

Talking with my students, I know that a large majority of them, especially boys, enjoy playing video games.  However, not having any children of my own (yet), in my head I pictured video games as something that are played 1-2 hours an evening/day and that is it.  I imagine for some students whose parents regulate their use of video games, this is the reality of their video game usage.  As I'm sitting typing this post, I'm in a quaint living room at the southern tip of Ireland where outside lies some of the most intense beauty I've ever witnessed on this earth.  The family that my boyfriend and I are staying with have a middle school aged son who since our arrival, I've seen do nothing BUT play video games.  I'm not referring to the 1-2 hours a day that I assumed most kids spent gaming.  I'm talking about from the time he wakes up in the morning to the time he goes to bed at night, sometimes not even joining us for meals at the table, opting for meals in his room to maximize his gaming time.

My heart right now is heavily beating in my chest because for the last 15 minutes I have been listening to the sound of constant gun-fire blaring out of the television.  To be frank, I just don't get it....the violence of it that is.  When he turns to interact with me, it is about something in the game and to be honest, I can't understand a thing he is saying because "gaming terminology" might as well be a different language to me.  When I asked him if he's read any good books this summer he replied, "I don't read during the summer."  His parents are very nice, caring people, who love their son very much, so it makes me ask the obvious question, "Why do parents allow their children to play extensive hours of video games each day?"  I am coming to the realization that this situation that I am witnessing is not the exception, it is more likely the reality of how many of my middle school students spend their summer as well.

So what do we expect from a student who has spent their entire summer vacation playing video games?  First of all, talking and interacting with others is not something that kids who play video games frequently are doing, so I imagine it is harder for these students to share their thinking in words because of their lack of socialization.  I would also imagine that in students who spend their summers gaming, we would see a summer slide in reading and writing performance.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and as a disclaimer from my statements above, I understand that there are students who do great in school and are well socialized who play video games excessively each day.

I am both stunned and intrigued by this reality of what I am witnessing.  I have decided to create a beginning of the year survey to give my students in order to get a sense of how they spent their summer break.  I will share an image of the survey below and provide a link so that you're able to download the PDF as a freebie from my TpT store.  What I plan to do is collect data from this survey by comparing summer activity to summer slide in reading.  I would love if middle school LA teachers reading this would do the same and share back their results with me.

One thing I know if that knowledge is power, and by collecting this data and openly sharing it with parents and students, maybe it will inspire just a few students and their parents to rethink gaming habits and maybe do other things....like pick up a book or get some physical activity.  As for me, I am going to head out into the fresh Irish air and take a walk, enjoying the beauty on the final days of my trip.

PDF Version of Survey


  1. My 13 year old son may be the exception to the rule and I am not defending my actions. He spends most of his day during the summer on the computer playing video games. He does go to summer workouts for 2-3 hours each day. He comes out of his hole occasionally to interact with me and his older brother. He also interacts with people via the computer using Skype or whatever. He is talking and communicating. He spends a good deal of time texting to his friends. He claims that there is a lot of reading on his particular games. I know there are problem solving skills involved. He has gotten high scores on all of his testing. He is a self-proclaimed "grammar-Nazi" - correcting me at times with my Texas slang.

    When we discuss limiting his computer time, he makes a good, cohesive argument that he gets his work done and does a good job and makes good choices and good grades. He says that when he stops making good decisions, then we can put limits on him. He really is a good child.

    So, just because a child spends a lot of time on the computer or playing video games, does not mean that there is no socialization or learning going on. We have to accept that this generation learns and interacts differently because they are digital natives.

    Do I wish that he would spend less time on the computer and feel that he could do really outstanding work if he were on the computer less? Yes, but his education is not lacking just because he spends LOTS of time on the computer and playing games.

    1. Hi Maria,

      I really appreciate you sharing your perspective on this topic. As I stated, I am not a parent and will not in any way pretend that I understand the realities of raising a child. It sounds like even though your son spends a lot of time playing video games that he is a well-rounded individual who has a lot of other interests that keep him active as well. It is never fair to say that there is a definite correlation between playing video games and doing poorly in school. I completely agree that there are students that defy this hypothesis all of the time. As a Language Arts teacher though in my perfect reality, I wish that even though we are in different times that more students would see the value and ENJOYMENT in picking up a book and reading it as much as they do playing video games every once and awhile.

  2. Excellent post, Kasey! I couldn't agree more. In fact, as I was reading it, I was thinking that as often as I have had the same exact thoughts, I could have written it (except for the part about being in Ireland - jealous! :).
    If only I had a dollar for every boy telling me that they hate reading and all they enjoy is playing video games! Or for every one that tells me they are going to make a living playing video games.

    Thank you so much for the free download! I plan to administer it to both of my 6th Grade ELA classes. One class is all boys, and one class is all girls. It will be interesting to see similarities/differences in gender, statistically speaking.

    1. Hey Diana! Great to hear from you! Thanks for your feedback with this post. Video games does seem to be becoming an obsession among middle school boys. That will be a super interesting dynamic with your two classes to see how the data comes out. Let me know the results! Hope you're having a fantastic summer!



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