Social skills

A commonly held view is that computers are detrimental to the development of children’s social skills. Though some children will retreat to computer games when they have problems at home or at school, gamers are often the most social and high achievers in their class (reference someone please)

MMORPG games require the coordination of a large number of players. Some War of Warcraft "instances" require a team of 40 players. Tasks include:

  • creation, recruiting and administration of guilds
  • recruiting parties with the appropriate skills for a raid
  • preparation of spells and items prior to the raid
  • assigning roles and strategies prior to a battle
  • cooperative play during a battle, responding to changed circumstances
  • post battle analysis which feeds back to the beginning of the loop

It has been shown (6) that participation in extracurricular activity has almost the same positive outcome as participation in school sports, this should hold true of game playing too. School sport has been long promoted for its benefits on socialisation.


despite many decades of research and hundreds of studies, the connections between people's consumption of the mass media and their subsequent behaviour have remained persistently elusive (1)

This debate is 2000 years old. Aristotle and Plato debated whether to ban Homer.
Aristotle: violence purges the emotions, produced catharsis.
Plato: Violent images provoke violent behaviour.

Lt. Col David Grossman, who blames computer games for one of those horrible school yard massacres, that occurred in his hometown. He tours America giving lectures about this.
Rhetorical question: "Why are video games violent"
Answer: "Because violence is the addictive substance".

However, it turns out that Grossman could not name the video game that the young killer was playing. Benger (author of the video, First Person Shooter) then went to the trouble of finding a psychiatrist who had interviewed the killer who contradicted Grossman's interpretation. (1A)

History of attitudes to new media

Computer games are treated in the same way as all new forms of expression have been as they have arisen as a result of technological change.

Written language is a technology which has shaped civilisation but it is not immune to criticism. "Plato's familiar critique of written language in the Phaedrus as a technology that will weaken our memories makes clear the dark side even of writing as a technology." (2)

Movable type printing was invented by Gutenberg in 1436. This new technology lead to the Renaissance in English literature. The educated middle classes could afford books and a great range of works was published. The English language underwent rapid change as a large number of new words entered the language. The works of Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) appeared in this period and were a result of print technology.

In the 1700’s a new literary form, the novel, came into existence. When women started reading and writing novels, new literary forms arose which explored the realms of emotion. These novels were greeted with similar fears as are now held for computer games but the “victims” were feared to be women rather than children.
"There was a real fear that reading novels would disrupt the woman’s duties by giving them false ideas of life and particularly made women unsuited for and unhappy with the domestic roles for which society destined them. A woman's mind was considered weaker than the male's and therefore some people felt that these novels would also affect their morality. Novels, it was thought, made immoral actions seem more interesting than virtuous ones" (3)

Later, a new literary/artistic genre, the comic, emerged and was the subject of similar criticism.
"crime comic books (mysteries, thrillers, horror, and police stories) were a harmful influence on young minds. Fifty years on, the targets of Wertham’s criticism seem relatively benign. For example, Wertham called Superman and Mighty Mouse “crime books” and labelled Batman & Robin homosexuals."

Then, film, radio and TV came under similar criticism.
"movies were the cause of crime, delinquency and sexual misconduct among teens; radio was charged with contributing to juvenile delinquency, providing youngsters with both method and inspiration for criminal acts and there were accusations that television was a prime mover in juvenile misconduct and delinquency . "
Children and Computers:New Technology—Old Concerns,Ellen A.Wartella Nancy Jennings The Future of Children CHILDREN AND COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY Vol. 10 • No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2000

Negative attitudes to games will obviously affect the benefits from game programming. Enthusiastic programmers can spend many hours programming for each contact hour. The attitudes of teachers, other students and parents affect the time that the student wants to spend or is allowed to spend programming, whether students are encouraged or allowed to program at the school during lunchtime, after school or at home

(1) Ten things wrong with the "effects model, David Gauntlett (retrieved 17/5/06)

(1A) First Person Shooter video, Robin Benger, reviewed at

(2) Beyond Amplification:Using the Computer to Reorganize Mental Functioning, Roy D. Pea, Center for Children and Technology Bank Street College of Education,

(3) History of the Novel, Kristan Whipple, Studies in the Novel, 1740-1900, Department of English, University of Missouri-Kansas City

(4) Literature Arts and Medicine Database, Literature Annotations Wertham, Fredric Seduction of the Innocent

(5)Seducers of the Innocent, The bloody legacy of pre-code crime, Nicky Wright. Originally published in Comic Book Marketplace #65 (December, 1998)

(6) Benefits Associated with Participation in School Sports and Other Extracurricular Activities in Adolescence