Tuesday, 9 October 2012

More bad anti-'screen' science, it's an epidemic!

Ah, old Aric Sigman, foreteller of doom, go-to guy for numerous bandwagon-pleasing Daily Fail-type 'Children have too many screeeens!" articles, and seasoned ignorer of any research that doesn't support his position. I thought for a minute when I clicked the link to the BBC article this morning that someone had reposted an old link, but nope, here he is bleating out the same things again a couple of months later.

Anyone who's looked at Dr Sigman's opinions before will probably know his MO: Cite any research that concludes (or can be represented to conclude) screens (of any sort) are somehow bad; Ignore any research that shows differently. Luckily though there are people around like this brilliant guy who will rip bad science like this to pieces.

I've written before about the illogicality of 'screen time', and I continue to find it incredible that a scientist, of all people, will doggedly try to drag it down. I've also linked before to several sites (here, here, here, here and here just for starters) showing the benefits of video games, and that's just one facet of what people like Sigman count as 'screen time'. Anyone can do a search here for research on video games, and it will show you publicly available research on both sides of the argument, so it's certainly far from the 'unequivocal' consensus that he states.

As for today's alarmist press release, I'm going to have to go on what the papers printed of it, as to access what he actually wrote and look in detail at the research he cited (who funded it, what the potential for financial gain from it was, what the actual findings were, whether groups of unschooled kids were studied (er, no)) would cost a very-much-not-worth-it twenty four quid. And we already know that what is actually researched is often not what finds its way into the papers. So...

There was the obligatory 'dire effects of being sedentary in front of these awful awful screens *wrings hands*' bit, accompanied by the obligatory glaring omission that all these children are being made to sit in school all day.

There was the obligatory 'Here comes the science!' bit, helpfully illuminating that 'screen novelty' (ie fun stuff) causes release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the 'brain's reward system' (ie is fun). To recap, 'fun stuff is fun'. Excellent sciencing Dr Sigman! He follows this up nicely with the disingenuous mention of addictive behaviour and inability to pay attention, as though the very existence of fun stuff being fun (and hence the brain behaving as though it's, erm, fun), is directly related to disorders involving this neurotransmitter.

This bit interested me: '"Screen 'addiction' is increasingly being used by physicians to describe the growing number of children engaging in screen activities in a dependent manner," Dr Sigman says.' The research talked about here found that rats in a confined, socially isolated, unstimulating cages became easily addicted to drugs including heroin, morphine, amphetamine and cocaine. Rats in a stimulating and more species appropriate environment? Not so much, by a huge margin. One of the researchers drew parallels with the high levels of addictions seen in indigenous communities following colonisation, when they too experienced social and cultural isolation.

So my only question to Dr Sigman would be, if schoolchildren (for that is who is researched every time) are showing what is being termed 'screen addiction', what is the socially and culturally isolating little box they're being put in that is leading to it?

1 comment:

  1. I love it-"fun stuff is fun." Classic. And your final question is spot on, hopefully more people will start asking it.