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 Better • 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. History • 1972: Magnavox introduces Odyssey, the first video Game system. History • 1976: Warner Bros. begins to market Atari. It was the first video game system to run arcade style games. History • 1983: Nintendo Game Systems introduces a whole video game system. Advanced Japanese technology give the games realistic sound, 52 colors and high speed action. History • 1989: Gameboy, a battery powered, hand held videogame system is released. History • 1995 Sony Releases the play station in the United States. History • 2006 Nintendo introduces the Wii. The first interactive video game to encourage physical activity. 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. Concerns • 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 death. • 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 Solution • 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. Future • Video games will probably become more interactive. • 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.