PPP050: Should Parents Really Worry About Video Games? with Research Professor Peter Gray

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'It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies'

That was the NY Post headline that sent the internet into meltdown in 2016. The article went on to state that 'your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs' and every parent who has ever experienced a pang of guilt watching their child immersed in a screen-based game felt that guilt engulf them.

But is it true? Are video and screen-based games as terrifying as the headlines suggest?

In this episode of the Potential Psychology Podcast I'm talking to Peter Gray, Research Professor of Psychology at Boston College. Peter is the author of both a widely used introductory psychology textbook, Psychology which is now in its seventh edition and Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.

Peter writes a popular blog for Psychology Today entitled "Freedom to Learn". He is frequently invited to speak to groups of educators, parents, and researchers about children's need for free play and the ways in which children are designed, by natural selection, to control their own education.

Peter says that he was intrigued by the increasing anxiety about video games amongst parents attending his seminars and presentations. He too read the news headlines and wondered if we were getting the full story. So, being the good scientist that he is, he set about exploring the available evidence on the effects of video games on the brain.

In this episode Peter and I discuss:

  • Whether your kid's brain on Minecraft really looks like a brain on drugs

  • What we know from scientific research about the effects of video games on the brain

  • The role of parents and society in the rise of gaming

  • Internet Gaming Disorder. Is it really a thing?

  • When should parents worry about their child's video game use?

  • What are the pros, cons and alternatives to restricting use?

It's an intriguing discussion that may generate more questions than answers but it certainly opened my eyes to the complexity of the topic and gave me food for thought as a parent.


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