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Bad Science

If anyone out there has read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, they’ll be more than aware about how the newspaper industry routinely misrepresents scientific research for the benefit of a nice snappy headline, or to present a portion of the overall data as proof of a new discovery.

As another one to file in the bad science column we present to you rickets, which is apparently the fault of video games too. Is there no terrible condition that video games don’t cause? The study, which was conducted by Doctor Timothy Cheetham and Professor Simon Pearce from Newcastle University, was quoted in the Metro and The Times, giving their readers terrible portents of funny-shaped leg doom. However, there was just one problem: the report didn’t say that at all, and the study was conducted on children too young to be playing games.

‘I understand METRO has said that we have linked computers to rickets, whereas we are actually saying lack of outdoor activity in childhood is a risk for poor D nutritional state,’ said Cheetham to video game analyst Nick Lovell, before confirming. ‘We do not say that gaming causes rickets. The average age of a child with rickets is around 20 months old: too young to use a keyboard and mouse!

‘No we really didn't do a study to show that, or say that Gaming causes rickets,’ said an angrier Pearce to pro-video game MP Tom Watson. ‘It was a classic piece of dodgy lazy journalism, taking three words out of PA's hyped-up version of our press release.’ So if someone pulls out the ‘studies have shown’ canard on you, smack them with some fact.

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