Video Games, Internet & Children’s Reading Habit?

GS jolly looks at the impact of video games and internet on children’s reading habits.

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Reading is to mind what exercise is to body. No entertainment is so inexpensive as reading or any pleasure so lasting. It gives our souls a chance to luxuriate. Anytime is reading time, no apparatus, no appointment of time and place is necessary.

Television, Internet and video games

Television is a daily presence in the lives of most young children, and video games on consoles and computers are also widely used by children. But how does exposure to television, computers, electronic games and other such media affect children’s reading habit is a matter of great concern, particularly in a country which is still striving to achieve higher literacy rate.

According to Lilya Wanger of English Department and The Internet Teaching Learning Center at Union Collage, Lincoln, Nebraska, “Television has often been dubbed as ‘Electronic Pied Piper’ This nick name appears to be appropriate when one considers that children spend one-sixth of their time between birth and age 18 watching television.” It is estimated that children spend more time in front of the TV than in any other activity.

The Internet has completely changed the pace with which one used to read. Children now want to read things faster and easier in video form. With the availability of the electronic media, it seems the entire world has changed their reading habits. Book sales are down, and Internet viewing is up.

Educators lament that they hardly find students using the library or getting books issued. Though both governments as well as the private schools have a wonderful stock of books, but we hardly see any student utilizing the same. It is not that the use of the Internet should be stopped; rather the students need to be educated on the importance of books. The concept of zero periods (Library period) should be universally adopted in all the schools.

Effects of television and electronic games

Television and electronic games can have a negative effect on children’s physical and emotional health, social development, academic skills and behaviour. Below are some of the suspected negative effects of electronic media on children.

  • Aggressive cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors
  • Displace social interaction
  • Inferior academic skills
  • Attention problems
  • Denigration of language

Video games and the Internet are the enemies of reading —diminishing book reading, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.

Other side of the coin

Whatever has been said till now is true but not the truth. The Internet can also have a positive effect on reading as it has something of interest for everyone. It provides the facility to acquire knowledge and get entertained without leaving the comfort of your home.

The positive side

As various studies have been conducted, individuals managed to produce a few good and bad effects of video games for kids. Contrary to what some may fear that the Internet is killing children’s reading bug, but it is actually encouraging them to read. Children now a day’s use the Web to check out author’s sites, book reviews and other online literary tools. These activities suggest the Internet encourages reading.

There are also some positive effects:

  • Children who play action games tend to make quick and correct decisions. This is especially useful when caught in intense situations.
  • Action games are especially helpful in this regard, as they train the brain to make faster decisions without sacrificing accuracy.
  • Strategy games, fighting games, and role-playing games allow children to develop a sense of strategy that’ll be more helpful when situations call for it.
  • In countries where English isn’t the native language, games allow for the development of their knowledge of English. Games also help out in reading comprehension and the like.
  • Video games that are more difficult will challenge a child’s well-being, allowing him/her to be emotionally more mature in the future.

Reading in digital era

Television, internet and video games have become synonymous with children’s entertainment activities. The Internet is good for getting kids involved in reading as many kids can’t be bothered to sit down with a book. Virender Kapoor, an educationist and an inspirational guru says that, “In the last forty years or so, the world has transformed into something which could never have been imagined by any one of us. The progress in computers and communication technology has made this change possible. The most important impact has been that we have much more information than we can handle. This has affected our attention span, our ability to actually absorb and analyze what our brains are bombarded with.”

Digital reading has been an object of fervent scholarly and public debates since the mid-1990s. Often digital reading has been associated solely with what may happen between readers and screens, and in dominant approaches digital reading devices have been seen as producing radically different readers than printed books produce.

The benefits of reading

  • Reading helps you cope with stress and anxiety.
  • Reading helps boost vocabulary.
  • Teaches tolerance (All good old stories of they lived happily thereafter).
  • Teaches morals(Honesty is the best policy- Beware of fair-weather friends).
  • Fires imagination.
  • Helps discover self.

Role of National Book Trust

National Book Trust (NBT) is an Indian publishing house, founded in 1957 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Education of the Government of India. NBT now functions under aegis of Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India. The activities of the Trust include publishing, promotion of books and reading, promotion of Indian books abroad, assistance to authors and publishers, and promotion of children’s literature.

Their latest initiative-NAPRDY is outstanding. The NBT conducted a National Action Plan for Readership Development Among the Youth (NAPRDY) with a vision to make all youth in the age-group of 15- 25 an active reader by the year 2025. The first major step under the NAPRDY has been the undertaking of the first ever National Youth Readership Survey among rural and urban youth across the country, which was undertaken by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), to assess the readership patterns as well as the reading needs of the youth. The Survey has since been published as a Report by the NBT.

Prophets of doom

  • Some people have suggested that the Internet has a negative effect on our reading? While others have gone to the extent that video and computer games would lead to the desensitization and moral decadence of today’s youth.
  • Some even believe that this is the end of the printed word.

Books are life

Books will never disappear, as some fear. It is impossible for it to happen. Of all the mankind’s diverse tools undoubtedly, the most astonishing are his books. If books were to disappear, history would disappear, so would men, because if books are not life than what is?

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