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 andpreschoolers 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.

Click here to view the VTech commercial discussed in this blog entry.

Resources-Tim’s Talk
Blocks & Computers

Resources-Media Impact
The Impact Of Computer Use On Children’s Development

Understanding The Impact Of Media On Children And Teens

2006 Video Game Report Card

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.”

Links to Online Resources on Technology as a Learning Tool

Resources-Marketing to Children
TV 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. 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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