Younger children as well as teens can easily become dependent on computer and console games. Because of this many parents are reluctant to allow their children to play these type of games because the perception is that they are ‘bad for them’. This is a mistaken assumption. Computer games are not in themselves a bad thing, however, it is very easy for them to become a problem.
Parents occasionally need a way to get their children out from under their feet for a while so they can get things done, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the problems begin with a longer term reliance on the computer to babysit the child, and the child’s growing dependence on the computer or console to stimulate them with colour and sound as a substitute for interaction with others. In addition, as the child gets used to computer games they will tire of them and finish them quickly, requiring new games to fill the void, which can be expensive. So what can you do to intercept these problems before they happen?
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Computer Games are Not Bad for Them
First, don’t rule these games out as a pastime for your children because there is essentially no harm in them. They are fun, and removing computer games may potentially isolate your child from a world that many of their close friends will almost certainly know very well. Not to mention that playing on computers and exploring them at their own pace breeds good IT skills in children and helps them to become comfortable with computers in general. They also quite subtly learn problem solving and hand-to-eye coordination. There is a comprehensive range of educational software products available, which provide useful developmental skills while your child is playing.
Ground Rules and Health and Safety
Before you even turn on the device, you may want to consider Limiting Your Child’s Time On The Computer Or Console to say, for example, 2 hours a day (depending on the age of the child). Perhaps set an egg timer to go off when they need to stop. Make sure your child takes frequent breaks while playing on the computer or games console – some authorities advise 15 minutes every hour or so – which avoids unnecessary eye and wrist strain. Otherwise just use common sense. Also when buying games pay particular attention to the age limits specified on the packaging, as many games are unsuitable for a younger player, as they contain stronger action sequences and adult themes.
Variety is Everything
Perhaps consider having one day on and one day off the computer. On the alternate days, try real world games to invite your child into more sociable play. Puzzles, cards and board games are something the whole family can do together, and a good replacement for the stimulation of computer games is, of course, the undivided attention of the family! Sudoku and games like it (Kakuro, Jigsaw etc.) are fun and also provide good mental exercise and improve your child¹s memory and problem solving skills.
Widen the Net
In addition, you can broaden the types of games your child will play by accessing Online Games On The Internet. There are a multitude of card games available on and offline that can be played with a parent present to share in the decision-making process and the fun. PopCap Games has a range of games free to play online like Bookworm (a basic word search), Typer Shark (teaches you to type while playing), Zuma (pattern recognition and coordination skills), Rocketmania (maze solving), plus other games which are just for fun.
Disney and Disney Channel offer a set of educational games for all age groups, and who can resist Winnie the Pooh? In fact, most major public service TV channels offer an educational game thread on their websites. In the UK, the BBC educational web pages are good places to start.