Today, computer and video games outsell almost every other type of toy at toy stores. Most children play computer games or video games somewhere – if not in arcades and internet cafes, then maybe at home or at friends’ homes. The computer game industry is a billion dollar industry. In many homes, it is also a key point of tension.
Should You Be Worried?
Most child care experts and child education experts agree that parents should be worried about the computer games their children play. While most children enjoy playing computer games, these toys are not always useful or appropriate for children. In the best of circumstances, games take children away from school work and physical activities. At worst, many games give children less than ideal messages about violence, society, and advertised products. Many computer games simply have little educational value.
Computer games also have been linked to some serious physical problems in children. Some experts have blamed computer games and video games for increased rates of obesity among children. Studies have shown that children also run a high risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI) when they spend time playing computer games.
To reduce the risk of RSI, you will want to limit your child’s computer sessions to less than an hour. Keeping the computer in a visible area of the house will make it easier for you to enforce this rule.
You will also want to create an ergonomically correct computer station for your child. Even if your child will be using the computer for less than an hour a day, make sure that your child has a comfortable, child-sized chair to use.
What Can You Do?
Experts suggest that educational games are not only a more age-appropriate alternative to violent computer games, but studies show that computer games with educational content can help build skills such as math, vocabulary, writing, geography, mapping, thinking, memory, science, and other skills needed for success in school. Some educators claim that computer games put play back into learning and encourage children to learn even after school and during playtime.
Educational computer games in fact have many benefits. They are not very expensive, but can often help your child with difficult areas in school. For example, if your child is having a hard time learning to read, computer games can help improve your child’s reading skills as part of a game. Your child will not feel discouraged and may even come to see reading as fun.
There are in fact few drawbacks to educational computer games. Some parents have noted that many educational titles are aimed at younger children, but many software manufacturer’s today also develop good instructional content for older children. One problem that many parents have is to get children – and especially older children – to even try educational computer games.
If your children already love computer games, simply banning games can feel like a punishment. Children may resist having their entertainment taken away from them. A better alternative may be to make use of computer games to promote learning by selecting from the educational computer games available. Educational computer games are meant to develop skills such as math skills, reasoning skills, reading skills, and word skills. They are also designed to be fun so that children actually enjoy playing these games.
In order to bring educational computer games successfully into your home, you need to set up a system that works. First, you need to find some educational software that your children will enjoy. Then, you will have to suggest these games to your children. Many parents have found that linking rewards to educational game works wonders. For example, if children are able to get a certain amount of points in a word game or are able to make a certain level of progress in a math game, they can be given small treats or prizes. This will help encourage children to enjoy the games more and stick with the games. For young children, having a parent play a game with them can be rewarding in itself. For older children, prizes and rewards often work best.