What keeps me awake at night - If we don't act, it will be game over for learning

20th December 2013 at 00:00

Much has been written about the impact of video games on a child's propensity for violence, but I have seen little evidence to support these claims. What I have seen is the destructive impact of playing video games on a student's ability to be educated.

Take Alex. Educating Alex is like educating a bean bag. At home, he spends every waking moment playing video games, and so he has excellent finger muscles but no muscles anywhere else, particularly not his brain. Lulled into a stupor by constant gameplay, he is as close to a vegetable as it is possible for a human to be without climbing into a marrow suit. Ask him to speak and he growls. Ask him to move and he looks at you in a way that encourages you not to ask again.

He's overweight, lazy, completely demotivated and wiped out of brainpower every single day. And although I don't have the scientific proof, I know it's the games. He does nothing else but play games.

So I talk to his mother. "It doesn't hurt; it's an interest," she says. We both look at Alex. I sense we have different ideas of what constitutes hurt. How many hours does he play the games? "Oh, sometimes through the night," she says, proudly.

Alex is an extreme example. For other students, the games are not as destructive but they are no less an addiction. "I really wanted to do the homework, Miss, but the Xbox was just there, staring at me and you think, 'Just one game...'"

You can imagine what school was like when the latest Grand Theft Auto game came out. In one class of 30, five boys were "off ill". One said the day before that he would not be in because he was going to buy the game that night.

Is the answer to take the games away from them? Is it the games industry's fault? No. But we do need to move the debate away from whether video games create killers and on to how we can manage children's desire to play them so that it is productive, not destructive. If we don't, we will have a generation of students that no amount of performance-related pay, targets and government strategies will help.

The writer is a teacher in Scotland

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today