“Excessive use of computer games among young people in China appears to be taking an alarming turn and may have particular relevance for American parents whose children spend many hours a day focused on electronic screens. The documentary “Web Junkie,” to be shown next Monday on PBS, highlights the tragic effects on teenagers who become hooked on video games, playing for dozens of hours at a time often without breaks to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom. Many come to view the real world as fake.” J. E. Brody-NYT
Excerpt: Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children by Jane E. Brody
“Chinese doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder and have established rehabilitation centers where afflicted youngsters are confined for months of sometimes draconian therapy, completely isolated from all media, the effectiveness of which remains to be demonstrated.
While Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development.
And it starts early, often with preverbal toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.
Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.
Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.
There can be physical consequences, too. Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.”
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic. Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Chinese doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder.
- Often preverbal toddlers are handed their parents’ cellphones.
- Parents are grateful for ways to calm disruptive children.
- Some children seem destined to suffer the negative effects of video-game overuse.
- There’s no conversation anymore.
- They need time to deal with their anxieties.
- Children can lose the ability to focus on what is most important.
- Texting looms as the next national epidemic.
- When not texting, children begin to feel more lonely and depressed.
- There can be physical consequences, too.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Spanish doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder.
- American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action.
- It starts late often with adults.
- China has the most adolescent video users.
- The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly 2 hours a day with a variety of different media.
- Adults are not affected by excessive computer use.
- Children should not be exposed to any electronic media, before age1.
- Heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior.
- According to Dr. Steiner-Adair, kids need time to daydream, and deal with anxieties.
- Too much texting can cause sleep deprivation in children.
Grammar Focus: Preposition Exercise
Prepositions: in, for, of, with, by, on, at, to, as, into, around, over, from, during, about, with,
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed above. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Many parents seem ___have few rules ___use ___ media ___their children and adolescents.
Two-thirds ___ those questioned ___ the Kaiser study said their parents had no rules about how much time the youngsters spent ___media.
There can be physical consequences, too. Children can develop pain ___their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels ___ their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain ___being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.
II. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
1. The following statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.
“Heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. Those who watch a lot of simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can become immune to it, more inclined to act violently themselves and less likely to behave empathetically.”
“Teenagers who spend a lot of time playing violent video games or watching violent shows on television have been found to be more aggressive and more likely to fight with their peers and argue with their teachers, according to a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.”
“Schoolwork can suffer when media time infringes on reading and studying. And the sedentary nature of most electronic involvement — along with televised ads for high-calorie fare — can foster the unhealthy weights already epidemic among the nation’s youth.”
2. How much time do you spend in front of your computer screen?
3. Do you agree that young children and teens should not spend do much time at their computers? Provide reasons for your answer.
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.