Video games from first class?
19.11.2010, 12:00 | Jenni Zwick, t-online.de
Children should learn the proper use of computer games. (Image: imago) (Source: imago images)
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“Mama, everybody’s got a Nintendo, except me.” Phillip is really excited. So far, the six-year-old has shown little interest in game consoles. Sometimes he was allowed to make little computer games on his father’s PC, but he loved to play “real” outdoors – with his friends. Now it suddenly has to be a Nintendo at Christmas. That’s his biggest wish on his Christmas wish list. But his parents are insecure – isn’t that much too early? Doesn’t dealing with the cyber world too early promote a later addiction to gambling and rob the colourful, fast games of all their own creativity?
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Computer games in kindergarten
If parents work at home on the PC or older siblings already play with game consoles, interest in the computer often awakens between two and three years. Otherwise a little later, but mostly at primary school age. Media scientists and pedagogues are mostly of the opinion that a careful and careful introduction to computer games can make sense even at kindergarten age. For this reason, many kindergartens and daycare centres now have PCs where children can play so-called learning games.
The advantage of these games: Each child can walk through the game at their own speed and playfully learns shapes, colours and how to use a mouse and PC. It is especially important for insecure children that they can solve the tasks of the game at their own pace and without observing other children. Thus they feel less pressure and have a sense of achievement. The computer doesn’t get “annoyed” when it doesn’t work out and rewards every properly executed action. Studies have shown that children with learning disabilities gain self-confidence when playing on the computer and children with attention disorders learn to discipline themselves.
Media education is important
Of course, the use of the PC in kindergarten is strongly regulated. More than half an hour at the computer is usually not allowed there. After all, the children should be occupied with each other and with other toys or play outdoors. And this is exactly where the crunch point lies for Nintendos, Gameboys, computer games or game consoles. To a certain extent, dealing with these games does not hurt. Philipp also doesn’t become a “child’s nerd” by owning a Nintendo, who doesn’t take his mobile console out of his hands anymore, doesn’t have any friends anymore and later gambles “World of Warcraft” to excess. On the contrary, if gaming is completely banned in the digital world and denied by parents, there is a great danger that the child’s interest will increase. It is well known that what is forbidden is particularly fascinating.
When children play their first computer games, parents and educators should support and accompany them. But that also means being there and taking the first steps together with the child. A Gameboy is not a babysitter! Observe how your child reacts: Does it play with fun? Does it learn in the process? Does it quickly lose desire? Does it develop aggressive behaviour? Sometimes six-year-old computer games or mobile consoles are desired and not yet ready for development.
Children are quickly overexcited
Educationalists recommend setting a daily time limit for television, computers and the Internet, the so-called media or screen time. Younger children in particular are often overwhelmed by the rapid succession of colourful images. This means that if a six-year-old child watches a television programme in the afternoon, the computer is taboo on that day. A time span of 20 or 30 minutes is mentioned as a recommendation for children under the age of six, for primary school pupils the daily media time can gradually increase and for children from twelve to about 90 to 120 minutes. It is advisable to make clear agreements in which the child undertakes to comply with the media times, especially when it comes to purchasing their own device.
Parents set the rules
When children and teenagers should have a Gameboy, an Xbox or their own computer depends on their interest, their level of development and their parents’ house. There are no guidelines or recommendations as to when a child may or may not own its own device. Important are the basic conditions, which are given and controlled by the parents. Here you should pay particular attention to the time your child spends with these play devices. It is important, for example, that the Gameboy is just one of many toys and that your child is occupied with other things.
The problem with a mobile game console is that you have less control over how much time your child spends with it. They can, for example, take them to school or playground without you noticing. Then, of course, it is difficult to check the agreed “media time”. You can, however, agree with your child before buying that the device is stored in a place in the home, such as the DCD shelf in the living room, to which you have access just like your child. So Nintendo or Gameboy won’t disappear into the shallows of your child’s room and you’ll have a better idea of how often and for how long it’s played.
Media use a component of our life reality
No matter how parents feel about it and where their own interests lie: Nowadays, there is no way around using computers, game consoles, the Internet or television. It is therefore the parents’ responsibility to teach their children how to deal with these issues in a healthy way, even if they do not have access to them themselves. Especially when a child comes to school, he or she is exposed to new influences, gets new ideas and often deals with completely different things than in kindergarten. It is often difficult for parents to recognise that the child is less oriented towards their own interests than towards those of friends and classmates.