Cell phones don't make kids dumb, but video games could help them do surgery, study finds

Research out of Michigan State University finds that parents pointing to cell phone use as a reasoin for there kids' poor academic performance might need to look elsewhere. Though there is some correspondence between video game playing and lower grades, the researchers found.

Cell phone use pretty much had no impact on academic performance of a group of 12-year-olds from 20 middle schools and an after-school center in Michigan, the researchers found in a 3-year study that's part of a broader examination of children and technology. More research needs to be done into texting, though, since that can be used for misconduct, such as sharing test answers. The study found that girls spent a lot more time on cell phones than did boys.

Researchers did find ties between video game playing and lower grades (A recent BYU study also had some discouraging findings about video game use, though in older students, though). However,  the good news is that video game playing didn't seem to have a bad effect on math skills.  In fact, video games can, not surprisingly, prove beneficial in developing visual-spatial skills. Such skills are considered crucial for learning science, engineering and other topics.

Linda Jackson, the Michigan State professor who leads the research project, urged video game makers to further focus on engaging users in visual-spatial skills and less on violent themes (not that all video game violence is bad, according to a recent study out of the UK). She also called on game makers to create more programs of interest to girls. Learning such skills can even pay off for students who go into fields such as surgery, she said.

"Girls are at a disadvantage by not having that three-dimensional experience," she said in a statement. "So when they get to medical school and they're doing surgery in the virtual world, they're not used to it."

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