Leap Frog has been an educational gaming business leader for 20 years. Today they announced their latest videogame console, Leap TV. Designed to be played by kids 3 to 8 years old, it features motion sensor technology to promote increased activity and is currently compatible with 100 educational Leap Frog games. This sounds like every kid’s dream, even those from 3 to 8 years of age. Leap Pad 3, a third-generation tablet, has already hit the market; by the end of the year, gaming consumers will be rewarded with another Leap Frog innovation, Leap Band, an activity tracker that will reward active children and teach healthy habits. Every parent may want to help every child realize their dreams, but they need to be aware that the overuse of Leap Frog’s Leap TV could become a long-term nightmare if left unchecked.
John Barbour, CEO of Leap Frog believes that he has the answer to the perfect gaming system for younger children with his new Leap TV, and soon to be released Leap Band. “Most educational games today,” he says, “are either so educational that kids don’t find them fun or so focused on fun that they offer only the slightest educational value.“ Barbour contends that Leap TV and Leap Band will solve this dilemma. The company is also very concerned with the belief that video games will ‘rot kids’ brains’ and they believe that Leap Band might be the cure-all. They are posing that the introduction of Leap Band to the very young gaming market will temper the fears of concerned parents.
Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Leap Frog are only too aware of the overcrowded electronics industry as they each try to come up with a better gaming system. Are they thinking only of the money they make each time they bring a better, more complicated gaming console to the marketplace or do they really have our children’s best interests at heart? Does Leap Frog’s John Barbour only see dollar signs or is he genuinely concerned for the well-being of 3 to 8-year-olds while they interact with Leap TV and Leap Band? Are these gaming systems, such as Leap Frog’s leap TV, every kid’s dream or might they become every kid’s long-term nightmare?
Today’s video games, unlike the early consoles of the 70s, such as Atari, require a much deeper level of concentration, both physically and emotionally. The industry is so huge that it generates $12 billion in revenue annually and has attracted over 95 percent of our youth, primarily teens. This form of entertainment has affected children positively and negatively. On a positive note, videogame play, like Leap Frog, helps to improve a child’s manual dexterity and computer literacy. Children that play pro-social video games, those that reward players for helping others within a game, tend to become empathetic and helpful to others they meet in their daily lives, according to a recent 2014 Iowa State University study.
However, the most popular video games on the market today contain violence. One can only hope that the Leap Frog gaming system is the exception. Violent video game content has been linked to aggressive behavior in some teenagers. One of the most common methods of teaching is repetition and video games are no exception. The constant repetition of violent acts within these video games acts as a positive reinforcement towards violent behavior. The length of time children are allowed to play video games correlates directly with the degree of aggressive behavior shown by those same children. A 2010 survey indicated that children between the ages of 8 and 18 spent 7-1/2 hours a day playing games. Alarmingly, more than 50 percent of their parents had no gameplay rules whatsoever.
To take it a step further, a 2011 study indicated that some children are likely to become videogame addicts suffering from pathological gaming. Over 3000 children’s gaming habits were studied and it was determined that children that played more than 20 hours of gaming were susceptible to addiction and/or depression. The study concluded that 9 percent of those children are considered gaming addicts. It was not clear whether the depression they suffered was related to the gaming or other factors caused by excessive gaming such as poor school performance. Presently, pathological gaming is considered too new to be labeled a disorder.
In conclusion, Leap Frog’s new gaming systems may well be a child’s dream, helping that child to grow into a well-adjusted adult, perhaps a little bit ahead of others. Without proper parental supervision, Leap Frog’s Leap TV and other gaming systems may turn into a child’s long-term nightmare instead of the dream that every kid thinks it is. A parent should limit a child’s gameplay or any video activity to two hours or less per day. Parents should encourage their children to interact positively with others aside from gameplay, reinforcing the fact that there is more to life than video games, even Leap Frog.
by Dennis De Rose