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In The News: The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety And Video-Games

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Relax: The digital age is not wrecking your kid's brain, is  Dr Richard A. Friedman's headline in a recent New York Times article about technology's impact on childhood.

The article highlights that many reports that conclude to have proven a link between video game and technology use and anxiety are in fact proving correlation rather than causality.

Despite news reports to the contrary, there is little evidence of an epidemic of anxiety disorders in teenagers... it’s more likely that the epidemic is simply a myth. The more interesting question is why it has been so widely accepted as fact.

Friedman then develops an interesting discussion about how this myth is proliferated.

Parents have bought into the idea that digital technology — smartphones, video games and the like — are neurobiologically and psychologically toxic. If you believe this, it seems intuitive that the generations growing up with these ubiquitous technologies are destined to suffer from psychological problems. But this dubious notion comes from a handful of studies with serious limitations.

The most interesting and important thing for parents here is the reassurance that children are more robust than we often realise.

The truth is that our brains are both more resilient and more resistant to change than we think. The myth of an epidemic of anxiety disorder rooted in a generation’s overexposure to digital technology reveals an exaggerated idea about just how open to influence our brains really are.

It’s good to keep in mind that the advent of new technology typically provokes medical and moral panic. Remember all those warnings that TV would cause brain rot? Never happened. The notion that the brain is a tabula rasa that can be easily transformed by digital technology is, as yet, the stuff of science fiction.

This is all very helpful and paints a hopeful future for technology and childhood.

So don’t assume that there’s something wrong with your kid every time he’s anxious or upset. Our teenagers — and their brains — are up to the challenges of modern life.

Read the full article on the New York Times.

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Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames and has written for national press and broadcast about video games and families for over 15 years. He has just published the Taming Gaming book with its Family Video Game Database.