Do computer games leave children with ‘dementia’?

Daily Mail headline: ‘Computer games leave children with ‘dementia’ warns top neurologist’. The first two paragraphs of the article:

Children’s brains could be left damaged and they could suffer temporary ‘dementia’ by playing computer games, a leading scientist has warned.

Eminent neurologist Baroness Susan Greenfield said yesterday that spending time online gaming and browsing internet sites such as Facebook could pose problems for millions of youngsters.

Three paragraphs from further on in the same article:

However, she did not reveal any research that had made a connection between screen technologies and brain degeneration.

Professor Mark Griffiths, a psychologist and Directory of Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit, said he knew of no scientific evidence that such a link existed.

He said: ‘If anything the fact computer games are arousing can aid education by keeping children engaged.’

So, basically she is speculating that constantly being at a computer screen could damage your brain (for example, if you spend too much time on the Mail website) but she fails to provide any evidence to support her hypothesis. The Daily Mail chooses to ignore that and prefers to instead publish a headline that clearly implies the claim is based on evidence – i.e. if they accurately reported what the neurologist had said the headline would read: ‘Computer games could leave children with ‘dementia’ warns top neurologist’ rather than: ‘Computer games leave children with ‘dementia’ warns top neurologist’.

Paul Dacre doesn’t seem to realise that there is a lot more to bad journalism than just phone hacking and that tougher regulation isn’t just a result of that one crime, but rather the fact that the vast majority of newspapers publish bullshit every single day.

8 thoughts on “Do computer games leave children with ‘dementia’?”

  1. As far as I can tell, the Mail stories pretty much go like this:
    Can Do To Our ?
    Lots of paragraphs speculating on the possibility of the something being very good or very bad. Lots of mediawhores/talking heads spouting off about their pet theories.
    Final paragraph: NO, the thing won’t do the thing we said it will do.

    I may use this to apply for a journalisty-writer-person-type job at the Mail.

  2. “Children’s brains could be left damaged and they could suffer temporary ‘dementia’ by playing computer games”

    As opposed to…

    Adults brains are definitely damaged by reading the Daily Mail, they suffer from Stupid White-man Syndrome.

  3. Ooooh I can do that.

    Lampposts *could* give you lupus. I have no evidence for this, but beware lampposts!

  4. Well said. As someone who plays videogames regularly all this tabloid/bad day time TV games bashing has been getting on my nerves for quite a considerable amount of time now.

    After the infamous Alan Titscharsh Show incident, myself and a few friends complained to Ofcom. Their reply was something like ‘your complaint has been noted but as the Alan TM show is not registered as a “factual and or news” programme we can take no action; and then recommended I complain to the programmes production company. I didn’t waste my time even bothering.

    So it appears they are free to make streams of uninformed, ridiculous, exaggerated and defamatory comments unchecked then.

    Just like the PPC allows the Mail to write their regular ‘games are evil’ articles despite the fact the vast majority of them are examples of laughably bad/intentionally misleading (delete as you deem appropiate) ‘journalism’

  5. To be fair, the problem here’s churnalism rather than simply bad reporting. Susan Greenfield’s been passing this rubbish scare mongering off as science for a few years now.
    Oddly the computer games she sells lack these harful effects.
    Ben Goldacre has much to say on the subject.

  6. It makes me wonder whether this is why the Daily Mail is constantly slagging off “mickey mouse” academic subjects. Media Studies students are actually taught how to back up a claim with evidence.

    Seems that the journalists who earn 6 figure salaries writing for the Daily Mail need to go back to do their A levels.

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