Gaming and your child - insights from a parent

WHAT are your views on gaming and your young child? Is it distracting them from schoolwork? Does it impair their developing social skills?

With government recognition and support for the multimedia and gaming industry, and an increasing availability of public gaming centres, parents just can't afford to dismiss it outright but want instead to understand how their child can reap educational/learning benefits through gaming. In this context, check out our learning through gaming stories on educational software and free online educational games.

Recently, a parent couple kindly agreed to share with onSponge their experience about gaming in their child's life and its impact. Since such parent experiences with children can vary, we invite your own sharing of insights either by commenting on this story, or starting a thread in our Discussion (forum).


onSponge: For the benefit of our readers, please introduce yourself and family.
Andrew: We are the Yeoh family, there are three of us, Jonah (who is nine years old), Elena & Andrew.


onSponge: The school holidays are upon us, and kids' attention invariably turns away from school and homework! Does your son have an affinity to tech stuff including software/hardware and especially those related to gaming? If so, what are they?

boy_on_pcAndrew: Jonah is quite a regular user of the computer. He plays interactive CD-ROMs as well as online flash games. His favourites include ClubPenguin and Dragon Fable. He also shares a PSP with daddy and counts numerous racing games as the range of software that he enjoys.


onSponge: Could you describe Jonah's skills in their use? Compared to yours?

Andrew: He is reasonably competent in finding flash games and has taken a fancy to "Googling" for YouTube clips of racing cars, crashes and such like. Whilst he is not quite the power-user, he is able to get going all by himself, normally unsupervised.


onSponge: When and how did he start showing interest in tech stuff and games?

Andrew: He first started using a Mac at 18 months and is comfortable with computers. Having said that, Jonah finds the Windows operating system (all versions) to be absolutely frustrating to use in comparison to the Mac operating system. All the Windows PCs he has ever used have been unstable, slow, unintuitive, susceptible to viruses and frustrating. Although there are more games available on Windows, for online purposes, he uses the Mac OS and Firefox browser to get by.


onSponge: Are there any educational/learning aspects to his tech/gaming interests? Could you describe some of these?

Andrew: He uses CD-ROMs to complement his music lessons. Beyond that, computer use is mostly for entertainment and gaming.


onSponge: What is the impact of his gaming interests on his social skills and behaviour?

Andrew: Jonah himself says that it affects his behaviour at home. He irritates mummy more when he plays too much computer. Actually, it affects his ability to focus and makes studying and doing homework a frustrating exercise. In the weeks leading up to the examinations, when his computer time was curtailed, his attention span and focus improved.


onSponge: Tweens ie those between 7-14 are described by some as Generation T (for their facility and ease with technology). For parents who are tech-challenged, please share some of your thoughts on how they could approach their children's affinity to gaming, including examples, estimated costs, references they could consult, etc of what they could consider starting their kids with.

Andrew: BUY A MAC!!!


onSponge: Finally, we would appreciate any final thoughts on how gaming can be a positive influence on a child's learning development in this internet age.

Andrew: Some simulation software cannot be under-estimated for the ability to train hand-eye co-ordination. Take someone like Lewis Hamilton who uses gaming software like the Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 to challenge his reflexes. These skills are transported onto McLaren high-end simulators where he spends hours learning circuits and testing race simulations. The caveat being that these are indeed the skills that you would wish to include as part of your child's development.

onSponge: Thank you Andrew and Elena for this sharing. And Jonah, keep on gaming responsiblyCool.