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Another town has joined the list of jurisdictions seeking to curb children's use of electronic video games.

An ordinance passed by the Marlborough (Mass.) City Council makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to play the games during school hours, and bans the machines within 1,500 feet of public schools.

Ordinances such as the Marlborough one are appearing on town-council agendas throughout the country as concern over the long hours children spend in front of electronic games increases. The constitutionality of one such ordinance--passed in the town of Mesquite, Tex.--was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court last November; the decision is still pending.

Opponents of the Mesquite ordinance argued that restricting children's access to video games is an infringement of their constitutional right to free association. The ordinance's proponents countered that paying 25 cents to use a machine is not the kind of "association" the drafters of the Constitution meant to protect.

Ordinances such as Marlborough's are usually accompanied by a declaration of the games' deleterious effects, but none have yet been scientifically documented.

Robin N. Smith, a graduate student in developmental psychology at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst, says she tried to find such a study--either complete or in progress--as part of her doctoral research, but could not. Neither could she find documented proof of "addiction" to video games.

Another question about video games remains unanswered: Does staring at video-display terminals of any type for sustained periods of time have an effect on vision?

Dr. Shiro Tanaka, a medical officer at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is conducting a federally-sponsored study of workers using video-screen computer terminals at The Baltimore Sun. Early results indicate no significant difference in the occurrence of cataracts between workers who use the terminals and those who do not. This contradicts earlier findings of Milton Zaret, a New York opthalmologist. (A cataract is an opacity of the lens of the eye that progressively diminishes vision.)

Dr. Tanaka will also examine any link between the terminals and such eye problems as irritation, headaches, and blurred vision.

A new book directed at "novices, teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents" who are interested in the educational applications of the new computer technologies is available from the Technical Education Research Centers (terc), a nonprofit research organization in Cambridge, Mass.

Microcomputers in Education: An Introduction was written by Adeline Naiman, managing director of terc Marc S. Tucker, who is assessing such material, calls the book "easily the best thing of its kind I have seen."

Single copies are available for $5 (plus $2 shipping) from terc, 8 Eliot St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138.

--Alex Heard

Vol. 01, Issue 22

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