Play Your Video Game

The commercial begins with Mom’s voice, “Stop doing those dishes and play your video game!” The commercial proceeds to boast that “…with V-Smile, your child will learn spelling, math, vocabulary, and so much more.” The first time I saw this commercial I got angry; now I simply cringe when it airs. Then I visited the company’s website and read that this toy is intended for children beginning at age three and that this company also has a product called V.Smile that is marketed for children as young as nine months old. Appalled is too tame a word to describe my feelings: mortified, frightened, and livid are other words that come to mind as I seek to describe my feelings.
So, is a video game the best way for young children to “learn spelling, math, vocabulary, and so much more”? Of course not. Empirical research shows that the best way to learn language and communication skills is through interactive relationships with adults and other children. Math is also best learned in the real world of flesh and blood. It requires interaction with real objects in which children repeatedly practice a variety of skills and concepts with a variety of materials and with supportive adults nearby.
What is the “so much more” that children may learn from this video game? The marketers of this toy clearly understand several things:
  • video can be captivating to young children
  • a market exists to make money
  • the earlier you hook someone on a product line, the better chance you have of continuing to sell them products
  • parents worry about whether their children are learning enough, so, if you market a toy to infants and preschoolers you’d better tell parents it is good for their children
I suggest that the “so much more” that children may learn from this video game is to be consumers and to plug-in to media. Unfortunately, I don’t really think that this is something we need to teach our children.

Resources-Media Impact
The Impact Of Computer Use On Children’s Development
Understanding The Impact Of Media On Children And Teens
Resources-Literacy Learning
Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children
Continuum Of Children’s Development In Early Reading And Writing
Resources-Math Learning
Math and the Myth of 1, 2, 3
Mathematics through Play
Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings
Resources-Learning Through Technology
NAEYC Position Statement: Technology and Young Children—Ages 3 through 8.” www.naeyc.org/resources/position_statements/pstech98.htm
Links to Online Resources on Technology as a Learning Tool
Resources-Marketing to ChildrenTV Toy Ad Analysis
Buy Me That: The Powerful Influence of TV Toy Commercials, How TV Toy Commercials Influence Our Kids
Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment


  1. Many children do learn from online learning games. The games at www.k5stars.com offer topics like math, spelling and reading in a fun and educational way that children enjoy. Best of all, they can learn these topics 12 months of the year.

    :) Abigail

  2. Abigail,

    Are you suggesting that it is not possible to interact with children in developmentally appropriate ways throughout the year? Children enjoying the computer games does not make it good for them. Children might enjoy ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but it doesn't provide a valid argument for feeding children ice cream at all three meals.


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