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← Serious claims belong in a serious scientific paper

Pete H's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by Pete H

I got very interested in this computer games stuff years ago because my kids were born around the same time as on-line games. My oldest had an alarming photosensitive epilepsy experience around the age of 4 – playing Age of Empires I think. Probably less of a problem now with LED instead of CRT monitors.

The article mentions these claims going back a long way. From what I discovered they go back as far as the dawn of civilisation.

There is evidence of reactionary criticism by expert authorities against every innovation adopted by younger generations. Recent claims about the evils of computer games and social networking are a 5,000 year tradition of accumulating complaints about the brain damaging effects of whatever happens to be the prevailing pop culture innovation of the era. Examples: computer games, pinball, pool, rock music, sock hops, television, movies, jazz, radio, comics, novels, opera, ballet, newspapers, playing cards, printed bibles, poetry, dice, chess, and theatre in ancient Greece. Each was subjected to scientific arguments lobbying for preventative legislation. Probably there were prehistoric attempts to supress harps, nose flutes, tattoos, body and cave painting dancing, drums. Even the invention of fire would have been opposed by expert authorities. I can imagine tribal elders agonising about the social networking implications of youths sitting around camp fires in the evenings.

You would expect some correlation of teenage brain changes correlated with internet use. But there are too many confounding variables and other explanations. How could epidemiologists find a reliable control group of comparable teenagers who don’t use the internet and aren't liars? And the few honest kids who claim to use the internet least are likely to be much more physically active. Which means they aren’t a control because they behave so differently. Teenagers also experience natural brain changes plus many teenagers eat and drink huge quantities of sugar and are sedentary. Brain changes which eventually result in dementia are a known consequence of glycation via chronic exposure to dietary glucose. And chronic toxic glucose exposure is compounded without energy burning exercise.

Some teenage kids are obese and physically inactive and therefore more likely to play computer games. But anti-obesity recommendations may increase their intake of glucose-based foods as a preferred lower energy density alternative to displace higher energy density fats (but fats are what the growing brain is made of). So you’d expect abnormal brain development to be correlated with computer games anyway, if only because all kids play computer games but only the fat kids don’t do much of anything else and are encouraged to consume low fat diets.

Another confounding aspect is that computer games probably have a positive effect on brains. So net negative effects of computer gaming would mostly be a result of computer users being sedentary plus gaming displacing otherwise normal teenage physical activity. You could just as easily blame teenage brain damage on school homework.

Here’s an example about how computer games could one day be linked to physical activity to eliminate the sedentary aspects of gaming:

Sun, 23 Oct 2011 23:03:32 UTC | #883517