Toys and Technology: Change
for the Better
By: Jenna Witherite
March 23,2009
Spring 2009 Science and Technology
Nora Demers (Instructor)
Toys and Technology: Change for the
• Issue: Technological advances in toys but
in video games in particular have the
potential to be harmful for children.
• Stance: Technological advances that have
influenced toys have had a positive
influence on the toy industry and a positive
influence on society. Toys have, in fact,
advanced to the point where they are
more than just entertainment for children.
• 1972: Magnavox introduces Odyssey, the
first video Game system.
• 1976: Warner Bros. begins to market Atari. It
was the first video game system to run
arcade style games.
• 1983: Nintendo Game Systems introduces a
whole video game system. Advanced
Japanese technology give the games realistic
sound, 52 colors and high speed action.
• 1989: Gameboy, a battery powered, hand
held videogame system is released.
• 1995 Sony Releases the play station in the
United States.
• 2006 Nintendo introduces the Wii. The first
interactive video game to encourage physical
Video Games
• Probably the biggest technological influence on toys was
the advances in video and electronics technology that made
the first video games possible in the 1970’s. These early
video games were black and white and had extremely
primitive graphics as compared to the video games of today.
• Odyssey and Atari game systems hold little appeal to the
gamers of today.
• Nintendo’s Gameboy made video games portable, giving
kids the means to amuse themselves during long, or even
not so long, waits, making the kids and those around them
much happier. That’s a bit of technology that I can be
thankful for, for sure.
Video Games
• Japanese electronic technology brought the Sony Play
Station to the market in 1995.
• Not to be outdone by Sony, Nintendo introduced the Wii
game system in 2006. Wii is the first game system that
encourages the user to get up and interact with the game.
• Wii is the antidote to video game couch potato behavior.
Video Game Concerns
• By the end of the 70’s, video games had become a
preferred childhood play activity. Concerns began to grow
that video game play and the amount of time spent playing
would be harmful to children.
• Rating systems have been developed both in the U.S. and
Europe to help identify video games with excessively violent
themes and adult content, but since there is no one
standard and retailers are not bound by the ratings, the
rating systems mostly serve to identify the games so kids
can easily pick out the violent, adult-themed games.
Video Game Concerns
• Numerous studies have been done with regard to how video
game violence translates to violent behavior in real life.
Some studies “suggest” that video game violence “may”
carry over into real life.
• The main problem with drawing a firm conclusion is that the
studies have, traditionally been done on adolescents, who
by nature, tend to be more aggressive. Also, no serious, long
term study has been done. It is generally accepted that
continued exposure to violent video games can lead to
aggressive behavior.
• Another concern regarding video game play is that it is a
sedentary activity and contributes to childhood obesity.
• A study by Mayo Clinic obesity researcher Lorraine
Lanningham-Foster, Ph.D., confirmed that “kids
that play video games that require movement, they
burn more energy than they would while sitting a n
playing traditional screen games…children – very
focused on video games – can be made healthier if
activity is a required part of the game.” (Adding
Activity, 2007)
Video Games that Help
• The most important technological advances in toys are the
continued discoveries of ways that toys can help us. The
most obvious of these are the educational video game
applications that teach everything from foreign languages to
algebra to how to fly an airplane or drive a race car.
• Video games are showing promise in teaching science,
technology, engineering and mathematic applications.
Games can be adapted to the pace of the student/user,
games reinforce information already learned. Games appeal
to a variety of learning styles and, as previously noted, can
be adjusted to the pace of the learner.
Video Games that Help
• Another important discovery in the toys/ technology/
medical field is the discovery that playing the computer
game Tetris helps ease Post-traumatic stress.
• The sooner the game is played after the traumatic
experience, the more relief the victim seems to get from it.
(Playing Tetris, 2009) PTSD is most often associated with
returning combat troops, but it can be caused any traumatic
event: hurricane, accident, flood, abuse, acts of violence and
earthquake as well as combat.
• Playing Tetris soon after any of these traumatic events
reduced the effects of PTSD, feelings of being alone,
helplessness, and hysteria, dramatically.
Video Games that Help
• In a study done by the Department of Psychiatry at the
University of Oxford, Oxford, England, 40 participants were
shown a 12-minute film of traumatic scenes of injury and
• After a 30 minute break, half played Tetris for 10 minutes
while the other half sat quietly. They were asked to keep
track of how many flashbacks to the trauma scenes they
experienced during that 10 minutes. Significantly fewer
flashbacks were recorded by the group playing the game as
opposed to those who sat quietly. They were asked to track
their flashbacks and return to the lab after one week.
Tetris players experienced fewer flashbacks than those who
did not play Tetris and their other symptoms were less
severe. ( Holmes, 2009) ( Figure 1 below)
Figure 1
Video Games that Help
• Returning after one week, the participants were
also asked to recall the details of the film. Both
sets of participants were able to recall the
significant details of the film, so actual, voluntary
recall was not affected, just the occurrence of
flashbacks.( Holmes, 2009) (Figure 2, below)
Figure 2
• One thing to remember, though, is that no
matter how advanced toys and video games
become, parental guidance is still important.
Just as we don’t want television raising our
children, we don’t want video games to be
the last work in acceptable behavior, either.
Parents must be involved with helping their
children learn to make good choices.
• Video games will probably become more
• Toys will continue to be more user friendly
for children with limited motor skills.
• Researchers will continue to find more ways
that video games can be used to teach.

Toys and Technology: Change for the Better