Computers and kids
Whilst on Facebook the other day, I came across a friends shared Facebook status, as follows:
WARNING FOR TO ALL PARENTS WITH CHILDREN THAT HAVE ANY ELECTRONIC DEVICES , EX : IPOD, TABLETS ETC …. THERE IS A SITE CALLED TALKING ANGELA , THIS SITE ASKS KIDS QUESTIONS LIKE : THERE NAMES , WHERE THEY GO TO SCHOOL AND ALSO TAKE PICTURES OF THEIR FACES BY PUSHING A HEART ON THE BOTTOM LEFT CORNER WITHOUT ANY NOTICES . PLEASE CHECK YOUR CHILDREN’S IPODS AND ALL TO MAKE SURE THEY DO NOT HAVE THIS APP !!! PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS THAT HAVE KIDS !!!!
Now the first instinct of any parent when confronted with warnings such as these is to go into panic mode, especially with so much in the news about paedophiles and the like using sites such as this one to gain the trust of young children. But what do we do when we come across these warnings? Do we whip our youngsters off the computer? Do we bar them from using the internet?
Now if you are one of those parents who do not allow your child on the computer at all, you can stop reading here 🙂
For the rest of us, I will give you my opinion and my opinion is obviously in relation to my own child and I know every child is different. Now my daughter does not possess an iPad, iPod, iPhone, iMac or any other such device, only because I refuse to conform to the popular notion of everything “i”. I prefer we 😀 She is allowed access to our desktop computer or if I am feeling particularly generous, my laptop, for one hour a day (a bit longer in the holidays) . I know I’m so cruel…
Now I find that the best children’s games are the online variety. Actually, it all started with Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters. Other games in this category are bin weevils, Habbo hotel, Fanta and Jumpstart. And of course the latest discovery and most probably the most obsession-inducing game, is Minecraft. All are actually good games. Some have adventures and puzzles. Some do maths. Some do English. Some teach you to build and create. Mostly they are just a lot of fun and sometimes its important for kids to have that mind-numbing release…as do we all!
So back to the problem at hand: what to do about the details. I have taught my daughter to always use a pseudonym and fake login details (aside from the email address which has to be real but on that front, I have created an email for that distinct purpose) so no one will know her real name, her real age, her real place she lives in. And as a parent, it is always best to be aware of what games your child is registering for and logging in to. My daughter is not allowed to register on any site without asking me first. She knows this and I always check what details she has put in AND I check the email confirmations. I also look into any sites to make sure that they are not dodgy. Now most of these sites have features that include making friends and chatting with others. My daughter is allowed to have friends but those friends cannot chat with her and on sites like club penguin, you can control the chat and safety levels that are in place so it would be a really good idea to make use of those controls.
I have to say though that the most important thing to do with online gaming and children, is to educate the children. Teach them what is safe and what is not safe. Teach them that there are strange people out there. Most importantly, make yourself available to them so they can feel free to ask you if they are not sure of something or are uncomfortable with anything they encounter. And, if you see anything that doesn’t feel right, like the above site which asks for your child’s school and takes a picture of them, don’t ignore your instincts. It’s easy enough to add a site to a blocked list. Do it and explain to your child why you did it and what is wrong with a site such as the one mentioned above. After all, knowledge really is power!
If I went the other route and stopped my daughter from accessing the internet and indeed any games, not only would she find herself to be an adult that is too far behind the rapidly advancing world of technology to ever catch up but she would be so naive that she could easily fall into the very first trap she encounters. And I certainly wouldn’t want that for her. She is already smart and sensible and I would rather encourage that in her than squash it.
In fact, she is so advanced in the use of the computer now, that I am quite certain it wont be long before she has overtaken me! Minecraft, in particular, is a game that is constantly evolving. It starts with the original game that is downloaded to the computer (you login to connect as a multiplayer or you can play as a single player once the game has downloaded) It’s a simple enough game that makes use of blocks, everything is built from blocks. From that you can add a variety of ‘mods’ (modifications) which are created by various people and then added onto the game using a patch (don’t worry its all legal and all free :)). My daughter does this part all on her own and just to prove that she is better at it than me, I can’t do it. When I patch on a mod, it doesn’t ever work. I’m about as rubbish at it as I am at playing the game. My daughter has learned so much from this game, it almost beggars belief! She can create buildings that lift up using pistons, she creates switches using levers, she creates traps, she makes windows by melting sand in a big furnace, she uses switches to turn on the pistons and make her pop up houses. She creates castles and villages, people and animals. She made a working railway system and a water slide! And her latest creation (below is a short clip I made to show you) is a working shower (she also created the building and surrounds). Now I can’t make head nor tail of the game. I tried to play it once. Took me about an hour make a single wall. It takes my daughter a minute to do the same.
Enjoy the video 🙂