Parental Perceptions of Computer-Based Gaming Technology: An Evaluation of Children's Leisure Pursuits in the Computer Age

Article excerpt

Introduction

Childhood is predominantly a time for leisure. Recent acknowledgement of the importance of the relationships children form with people and their environment during their early years has required a continuous re-evaluation of the leisure activities that occupy this time. Children are vulnerable and their physical and mental wellbeing depends on the monitoring of these relationships. The activities through which children interact with their environment have an enormous capacity to influence their perceptions of the world and impinge on their capacity to live a happy and fulfilled childhood.

Recent studies suggest that children are using technology daily and extensively for entertainment (Rosen & Well, 2001; Johnson, Cohen, Smailes, Kasen & Brook, 2002), A quantitative survey by Rosen and Well (2001) was conducted with seven-to-nine-year-old children to establish the implications of technological entertainment. This research found that pre-teens played computer-based video games on average for three hours per day. This amounted to one hour per day longer than teens who played for two hours per day, and two hours longer than young adults who played for one hour per day. It was found that boys engaged in this type of activity more often than girls did, and it was suggested that computer and video game playing increased misbehaviour.

Although the association between television viewing and aggressive behaviour has been well-documented by Rosen and Well (2001) and Johnson et al. (2002), the present study seeks to understand parental perceptions of this type of entertainment, and particularly focuses on the attitudes of parents towards the use of *Playstation/*Nintendo television-based video games.

Literature Review

Computer-based technology has firmly established itself as a mainstream source of entertainment. The marketing and hype surrounding the release of the latest technological innovations has ensured that electronic entertainment has secured its place as a popular choice of leisure pursuit. But are there uncertain consequences for extensive amounts of time being spent engaging in computer-based gaming technology? Current research by Rosen and Well (2001) suggests that computer-based leisure pursuits may be a cause for concern.

Rosen and Well's (2001) study found that a greater amount of time spent playing electronic games is related to misbehaviour. However, this study was mainly concerned with the social and psychological implications of children being exposed to violent and aggressive images. The concerns of the present survey are not whether the content is psychologically damaging, but whether interaction with the technology itself is detrimental to the physiological wellbeing of children. Neurologist Dr John Watson (2002, quoted in Tuohy, 2002, p. 12) suggests there are biological repercussions when children interact with technology, as these games often demand an increased circulation of stress hormones throughout the body. He has found that this type of activity can interfere with the development of neural networks and physically reduce the capacity for concentration.

While this study and other research has found that computer-based video games are predominantly boys' activities (Rosen & Well, 2001), coincidentally or consequently there are substantially higher levels of diagnosis of behavioural disorders such as ADHD for boys than for girls (Barkley, 1991). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been primarily understood as a condition resulting from a reduced capacity for concentration. The 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1994) describes this most prevalent childhood disorder as 'a persistent pattern of inattentive behaviour and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals of the same developmental level'. Neurological findings are increasingly suggestive of the inability of the brain to process the sensory overload of the 21st century without consequences (Mattingley, 2002, quoted in Tuohy, 2002, p. …