Children and computers: State of play

Young children are naturals with computers, leaving their parents baffled. Should we be worried?

Plugged in: many children can play computer games before they can read. Photograph: Donald Iain Smith/Getty Images/Flickr RF

There are things in life that I don’t understand. The rules of rugby. The continuing success of David Guetta. How to do an overhead kick on Fifa 12.

“You press Y and A really fast, like almost at the same time,” says my son Patrick, who’s six. I watch as his small thumbs flip between buttons. He could play computer games before he could read. Now he reaches for his Nintendo DS like I reach for my mobile; he fills in idle moments on Fifa, playing games or altering his team or practising shots. I don’t mind, except when he gets so wound up by a vital match that he cries. My emails don’t make me do that.

I go to grown-up events – weddings, anniversaries, all-day lunches – and each time, at some point, I see young children gathered around a device: a phone, an iPad, a hand-held console. They’re absorbed, and quiet, not ruining anyone’s day, which is a good thing. Isn’t it? After all, when it comes to kids, there’s not much point in pretending technology doesn’t exist. It would be like pretending Lego didn’t exist. When boys go round to each other’s houses, they play football (in real life), or they play football (on X-Box 360 or PlayStation 3) – or they jump on top of each other in a big bundle and roll around and yell.

If I’m honest, my son – and even his sister, who’s one and a half – have an ease around technology that I find scary sometimes. The baby scares me because she keeps deleting stuff off my iPad. Patrick scares me because he could use the Nintendo Wii controls, shift from game to game, choose players, set up teams by the time he was four. He still can’t tie his shoelaces. There is research that says he is not alone: a survey of 2,200 mothers in 11 countries found that 70% of their two- to five-year-olds were comfortable playing computer games, but only 11% could pass the shoelace test.

Most kids’ shoes have Velcro straps, of course. The shoelace thing is fine. But computer games still bother me. It’s the knowledge gap. I have no idea what Patrick’s up to when he plays Zelda, or cries over penalties in Classics XI, because, other than the odd game of Space Invaders, I’ve never got into computer games. Mostly, what my kids play with is a variation of something I had myself when I was young, so if they get stuck, I can help. But with computer games, I am as useful as an instruction manual for a Commodore Pet.

Michael Acton Smith is a genial man aged 37. He has big hair and wears black clothes, which means that business journalists describe him as rock ‘n’ roll. Actually, he’s nerdier than that: more of a non-stop enthusiast, a man as dedicated to his weekly mates-together football game as he is to his business. That business? Oh, just Moshi Monsters.

Moshi Monsters is a UK-based website for young kids, where they pick their own monster, customise it and take it exploring: off meeting other Moshis, playing puzzles, earning points, decorating its home, acquiring cute pets called Moshlings by growing flowers… Sounds dreadful? You’re clearly not aged between six and 12. Half of British children that age have, or used to have, a Moshi pet. Worldwide, there are 60m users and rising; one child every second signs up to the site. It only came online in 2008.

Source: The Guardian Read more

Opinion:

Kids should be dragged kicking and screaming from their keyboards

Yes, we should be worried.

Today’s children are missing out on so much of life. Most of us have heard the saying in jest “I love my PC because all my friends are in there.” It may be said in jest, but there’s more truth than fiction.

That alone demonstrates the loss of social interaction. We have a generation of kids whose parents don’t understand them, who don’t have the skills to survive socially and who don’t get enough exercise.

The current grizzle is obesity. All sorts of specialists, do-gooders and government agencies are blaming the ‘McDonald’s’ of the world; sure they have to wear a more than large portion of the blame, but what of the rest? The rest of the blame can be squarely laid at the keyboard – not enough exercise.

There is another area of concern. A major stumbling block to development, and don’t laugh at this, children do not have enough cow poo in their lives. We parents have created a sterile environment for our offspring, devoid (mainly) of bacteria and use products like ‘Lifebouy’ to rid ourselves of even more. The result is that we are destroying our bodies’ defenses, when the body meets a harmful bacteria, it doesn’t know what to do with it or how to deal with it.

But cow poo is much more important to our wellbeing. Cow poo, is in fact, essential to our wellbeing.

Think about this; why are gardeners so happy to garden? Why are country folks less stressed? Why do trampers feel so invigorated after a day in the country?

Cow poo – fresh ‘feel good stuff’

It’s the cow poo effect.

Cow poo, compost, country air all have bacteria.

One bacterium in particular; Mycobacterium vaccae

It’s a bacteria, it’s a mind altering bacteria. It’s a ‘feel good’ substance. It’s everywhere in nature and is an antidepressant with the ability to enhance intelligence; stimulating neuron growth and reducing anxiety, which increases the production of serotonin (a type of neuro-transmitter) and in turn increases the ability to learn.

Until we can get our kids away from the keyboard/joystick and into the realms of cow poo, we are going to have a screwed up society.

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6 thoughts on “Children and computers: State of play

  1. Alex Jones says:

    Good post. If given the choice between technology and messing in the water then the child will head for the water. In reality it is the parents and other authorities that hold children back out of paranoia: stranger danger, anti-social behavior like making lots of noise, car accidents, health and safety. The alternative then becomes the child sitting in their room playing computer games all day, eating pizza and getting obese.

    • >Alex, I have posted before (I think it was on my original ‘Genes’ blog that google lost) about this over-protectiveness that is pervading society. The effects of the cure and the paranoia are almost worse than the cause.

      AV

      • Alex Jones says:

        Thanks for making me aware of Mycobacterium vaccae, this will be in my Monday blog, with a link to you.

  2. >Alex, thanks, I’ll watch out for it.

    AV

  3. […] now look at dirt in a whole new way. If you care for children, and they come in dirty, with bruises, scratches, torn clothes and twigs […]

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