Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Game brain and the Playstation Generation

I love my iPhone. I reckon it's probably the best every-day device created! In the last 5 minutes I've checked my emails, fired one off, messaged a mate overseas on Facebook, followed a new contact on twitter, read a message from my sister on Google+, worked out the best route I should take to a client later today on maps, viewed the weather forecast for the remainder of the day and viewed my Betfair balance to see how much money I made on the weekend. I still need to have a look at LinkedIn, save a document to Dropbox and goto Cricbuzz to see how many balls it took Clarkey to make his ton against the poms on Sunday night. All on my phone!!

I remember being excited when I opened the box to my brand spanking new Nokia 3310 back in the day. I think the best thing you could do on that phone was play snake.

So, how good is the iPhone? Or is it in fact not that good for us at all?

I was in a shopping arcade yesterday outside a coffee shop waiting for my coffee. A young boy was sitting near me at an empty table (his mum was talking to the barista whilst waiting for her coffee). Guessing his age, I'd say he was about 11 or 12. He was engrossed in whatever it was he was looking at on an iPhone. I asked him, "excuse me, is that your phone?" to which he didn't reply, clearly too taken by whatever it was he was doing on his phone. I asked again and he merely nodded. I said to him, "how good are iPhones. I love mine. What are you looking up?" to which he gave me a confused look and said, "I am playing Temple Run". "Is that a fun game?" I asked, to which he replied, "not as fun as Assassin's Creed on my Playstation at home". He proceeded to give me a run down of Assassin's Creed and all the characters he'd killed and conquered until my coffee arrived and I politely excused myself.

I walked away scratching my head. Assassin's Creed?? The only creed I know is the Apostle's Creed! For the record, I just Googled Assassin's Creed. Google tells me it is an action game with blood, language, mild sexual themes and violence.

That pre-teenage kid was engrossed in his own personal iPhone and clearly spent plenty of time playing some mind-numbing, violent action video game. How do parents keep track of what their kids are looking up on their iPhones? There is so much harmful content that is so easily accessible to kids via iPhones and iPods. 

Forgetting the kids for a minute, many adults can not let their iPhones out of their sight. How often have you had a conversation with someone while they pick up their iPhone and look at it? I'm certainly guilty of doing it.

My conversation with the boy in the arcade got me thinking about what I did to fill in my spare time when I was 11.

I used to kick a footy in the street and commentate to myself. "Somerville wins the tap, straight down to Smoking Joe Misiti. His quick hands find Mercuri who sweeps a wider handball to Michael Long. Look at this boy go, away goes Michael Long..." and would re-enact Michael Long's magical running goal in the '93 Grand Final yelling out Sandy Roberts' famous call.

If it was raining outside, I'd blow up a balloon and kick it around the hallway, still commentating to myself and imitating the crowd. In fact, I used to get a black texta and draw the Sherrin logo on a yellow balloon and turn the lights on. It was my very own version of Friday night footy!

During summer I was in the back lane with an old cricket ball and bat and would spend hours smashing cover drives into a brick wall (it was a bit embarrassing when I  missed the ball after dropping it in front of me and having a swing; I was never a good batsman).

My sisters and I and the kids in the street used to play brandy with a tennis ball for hours until Mum would ring the bell that signalled dinner was ready.

We rarely played video games. We didn't have personal phones or iPods. We didn't have TVs in our rooms. We learnt to occupy ourselves outdoors or with each other. We'd climb trees, ride our bikes, play hide and seek and smash acorns as far and high as we could with tennis racquets, waiting to hear if we'd hit a tin roof somewhere in which case we'd crack up laughing and egg each other on, "Do it again! Do it again!".

Yet, these days, teenage kids, and even pre-teenage kids are caught up in what many call the “Playstation Generation”. They have their own phones, iPods, TVs  computers, video games etc.  They spend hours playing games and even interact with other kids via headphones and online chatrooms.

What are the effects of the Playstation Generation? Numerous studies have concluded kids that spend hours playing, or are even addicted, to video games have long term effects to the brain. Some call it “Game Brain”. This was the term coined by Akio Mori, a professor of Physical Education, Humanities and Sciences at Nihon University in Japan. 

Mori concluded that kids who spent long hours engrossed in video games were less developed in terms of creativity and emotion than those at the same age who did not spend much time playing video games. He also concluded that "game brainers" could not hold the same level of concentration as their peers and also showed an inability to control temper and displayed problems socialising and associating with other people.

I’m no scientist, but this makes sense to me. If a child climbs a tree, he or she needs to think about which branch they will step on next, and make a judgement as to whether that branch will hold their weight. If it doesn't, they run the risk of falling and injuring themselves. This is opposed to those playing a video game and taking a risk where they might lose a virtual life and have to restart the level in the game. Surely the child who learns to assess real risk is going to better equipped to deal with real life situations than the child taking risks in excessive amounts of video game time.

There have even been reported deaths of people who have literally played video games until they died. These deaths were caused by cardiac arrest and/or malnutrition after days, even weeks, playing video games without a break. 

Now I'm not saying all kids who play video games are addicted and I'm not saying there is no place for video games and iPhones for children in this day and age. In my opinion they need to be regulated and balanced out with time spent playing outside, learning how to do things themselves and interacting in person with other kids. As my Mum always told me, and continues to tell me, “all things in moderation”.

How are we going to generate the next Michael Long when our kids are not getting outside and practicing...even with a yellow balloon!

All the best, 
Dom Meese


  1. Love this post Dom. I could discuss it in great length, however am not entirely convinced on my decision as to which side of the fence I am comfortable sitting on. I agree completely with your mum, anything in moderation. I am with you, a childhood full of fresh air, imagination, experimentation, exploration, creativeness, the freedom to BE A CHILD! I think that is the most important thing of all.
    Kids in my view are exposed to too much too early these days, be that because of the world of online access ... well, yes maybe.

    We as parents may have the ability to control what goes on under our roof, however with all the children that our kids come in contact with as they grow up .. be it school, sporting clubs, the park or the beach .. we cannot control what our kids are exposed to all the time. Everyone's standards as parents are different. This probably has never changed ... except the growing exposure that kids have these days to everything that is 'adult 'out there on the internet is scary, be it on phones, computers, pads or ipods.

    I suppose it stems many questions for me ... is this the reason for the incline in bullying in kids? Or was there always bullies, but the only way they could be that person was to their victims face rather than hiding behind a device?
    I am passionate about this topic, I know that I have gone off the beaten track somewhat ... but I do believe that the 'play station generation ' are affected by the technology.

    You and I ... the lucky ones to to scrape into the tree climbing, snail racing, cubby building generation are blessed to have had that. However, all along there have been online gaming such as World Of War Craft, the mother of all nerdy / weird / addictive / make believe games out there. It's been operating since 1994 when we were still in Primary school ... oblivious to computer games and the concept of sitting in front of a computer screen for entertainment. . . as of 2013, they have over 7 million subscribers ( I looked that up, I don't store that kind of whacked information ) which leads me to think ... there were kids / adults and teenagers alike, back in the 90's when we were making rope swings, glued to their computer screens.

    Is it only now that you have your I phone rather than your cricket bat permanently attached to your hand that you're realising that technology is addictive? It probably always has been the case, you and I just didn't know about it.. because it wasn't in our lives ... or at least a priority in our lives.

    The fact that growing technology these days is at our finger tips is amazing. If only our kids were using these devices to send emails, use google maps, send a genuine email to a travelling friend over seas, the weather forecast and keeping in touch with their siblings. Then we probably wouldn't be creating a generation of people being diagnosed with game brains ... probably soon to be changed to der brains. Ha!

    Love the topic Dom. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for your comment, the very first on My Piece!
      I agree, we can only really control what is under our own roof, however, I'd like to think that with good parenting, our children would know better than to get caught up in harmful content when they're away from home. Easy to say in principle and no doubt our kids will succumb on some occasions. I'd like to think good parenting would outweigh the outside influence and our kids won't get caught out too often, and when they do, they learn from the mistake.
      Secondly, not sure I agree with the increase in the Playstation Generation as a result in an increase in technology. As you rightly point out, games such as World of War Craft and Mario Kart(I'm a gonna win!) were around in the early to mid '90s. The difference to me is that it was almost a "privilege" to have a video game console back then. That is, not everyone had one. I remember having to go to my cousins house to play Donkey Kong, or a friends house to play Mario. Not everyone had a Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64. Whereas these days, most families have at least one console, if not two or three. That,to me is the difference.
      I agree, if someone can work out a way to get our kids to access the good features on iPhones such as email etc, without having to worry about the crap, please let me know! Although even email can be unsafe. Who knows what is being sent via email??

  2. With the rise of twitter, how many children will be able to read longer than 160 characters (let alone this blog) before losing concentration...

    They have a place. As do books, sports, drama, board games, etc. All in moderation.

    Thoughts on email as an (in)effective form of communication?

    1. Great point about twitter. While I love twitter and think it is an outstanding news source, the potential problem is that it continues to breed a culture of instant and brief information. How often do you actually click on a link and read the article that is attached to a tweet? I know I usually read the tweet and leave it at that. I'll occasionally read the link but it is time consuming (as sad as that sounds). There is a trade off between trying to stay on top of plenty of news and tweets and actually delving into an article or issue deeply.
      Regarding email, there is no doubt it is effective in its intent. It is instant and efficient. However, I get your point that it is arguably ineffective in terms of actually communicating with people either face to face or by voice. It is easy to hide behind a screen and email. I just realised I am doing exactly that right now via this blog! (I'm more than happy to talk to anyone over the phone if they want to chat by the way!)
      Like most things, for kids, I think email is great in moderation and if you can guarantee the emails are clean. However, in my opinion, they need to be learning life in the real world, not online.

  3. Crikey, I'd given up on common sense being common but now I find quite a bit in this one article and commentary!

    Don't make the mistake either of thinking the Game Brain is just a passing childish phase. Humans need to learn and develop risk management and empathy.
    Airservices Australia is responsible for training Air Traffic Controllers and after switching to a computerised system, decided to select trainees for computer skills, hand-eye co-ordination etc. The aptitude tests did the job well and the trainees impressed with processing information via computers.. BUT
    then the penny dropped. When it came to dealing with real aircraft, real passengers, they could not cope. Near 90% of the class failed with their brains turning to mush. Airservices' returned to tried and tested training regimes ...

    1. Thanks Grova! I agree whole-heartedly with your comment regarding developing risk management and empathy. That's the concept I was illustrating with the kid in the tree example.
      Fantastic, real life example in the Airservices industry. 90% is massive! Can't argue with that. People need real life experience.
      Would you be confident if your kids learnt how to drive a car in a simulator and then got their licence and hit the roads?

  4. Hopefully by the time the kids get behind the wheel, they've seen plenty of empathetic (courteous) and defensive driving (risk management) with their parents.

    Although, they can be very subjective concepts when it comes to speeding!! (Guilty your honour!) Then again one could ask of speed traps, are they directed at revenue raising or risk management and empathy?

  5. Love you blog Dom! Brings up lots of issues that we all talk about around a dinner table or with some close friends. I like this topic you have brought up!
    I 100% agree with you - video games are not good for the brain and studies have gone to show that.
    I used to find it so annoying when you are out with friends or family and the kid is handed an ipad or iphone and just sits their not communicating. However, then I got to thinking......technology is the way of the world now. We used to had colouring books and books they have ipads with apps that involve colouring and reading. It is everywhere and developing so quickly that this generation need to know how to interact with it properly because imagine what the world will be like in 20yrs time! A kid can go on google and find any bit of information they want....they do not need to ask their parents or teachers for answers anymore because it is right there in front of them! They do however need to know how to use it properly and that is our job now as parents and educators. Teach children how to interact and socialise effectively and appropriately in this rapidly developing society. We still at times see technology as the enemy but it isn't - if we do not use it properly that is our problem! Parents and educators need to teach children that it is not appropriate to be on the PlayStation all the time - you need a healthy lifestyle for reasons x,y and z and limit the use of such toys. Some parents I think see it as the 'easy' way out but it certainly doesn't make life easier for you when you have a child who is becoming almost brainwashed from these games! I don't like playstations etc... by can see why people find them enjoyable but strongly agree it needs to be monitored. However.....I love computers and the iPad. Why? because your child can be learning without even realising and they are so good at it! We need to find the balance and that is not easy but it is the way of the world now....kids are tech savvy and we need to be open to it also....just as you are being through you blog!
    I love technology and think if you limit the use children have with it then you are just turning a blind eye. Teach them to use it efficiently and effectively. Teach them about moderation. Teach them about life. Teach them other forms of communication. Teach them the importance of being outside and playing. Teach them how to be active citizens in this rapidly developing society.

    1. Thanks! Yes I completely agree with you. Technology is the way of the world now. Has been since the iPhone came in in my opinion. Kids now have laptops at schools and most kids have some form of device whether that be an iPod or phone. As you say, we need to teach our kids how to use it effectively and balance it out with outdoor activities.