Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Me vs. Games Websites

I hope this is only a challenge and not a lesson that backfires at me!

Ariq, my 6-year-old son, loves computer and is very good at it (or he loves it because he is very good at it?). He finds getting around computer and the internet is a very interesting thing to do, so I have been using computer and the internet as an education tool to help him learn many things, rather than solely relying on information that I can give him.

Ever since Ariq started school, his days have been filled with questions about everything that he sees or thinks of every day; 'how does a rocket fly?', 'how many kind of snakes are there?', etc. I can always try to give him an answer in a simple way, but once he becomes intrigued to know more, I always suggest him to search for the information in Google.

Besides the 'serious knowledge', sometimes we also browse the internet for children stories or activities (drawings to be coloured, educative games, etc.). It is really amazing, the things that people share on the internet, which I'm really glad about!

Now, Ariq thinks of Google Search as the 'cleverer' and 'more knowledgeable' mother than me. When he wants to know something, he will search for it in Google, and he will mostly asks me when he doesn't understand the English (despite the fact he goes to a bilingual school, he is still in grade 1 and his primary language is Indonesian).

The challenge finally arrived last weekend, when we went to my husband's relative's home for a family function. As usual, during such function, my sons would be playing with second cousins, and that day, they were playing computer games.

In general, I don't have any problem with computer games. So far, Ariq has been fairly balanced in his gaming habit (without being told, he would leave his computer screen to play with his brother), he is also very cooperative whenever I remind him to do his reading for school.

Moreover, the games that the children were playing during the family function were only simple arcade games, which I was sure Ariq would enjoy playing for sometime but wouldn't be addicted to, because at home, he prefers to play Starcraft and Warcraft (offline). Sometimes he plays Warcraft online when his dad is home, but he doesn't feel confident enough yet to play online by himself (which my husband and I are glad about, for the time being).

My worries started at home, the night after the family function, when Ariq showed me the site of the games that he played with his second cousins. I just realised that the games were free online games! Ouch!

My husband's cousins might not be too worried about their children playing online, maybe because their children are not that much into computer and the internet like Ariq is. Maybe their children would stay on the site shown by their parents. Ariq on the other hand.. would definitely be intrigued to jump from one site to another just by following the links provided on the sites!

While waiting for one game to be loaded, Ariq said to me and his brother, "Look, this girl is really sexy! She is wearing almost nothing!"

I shouted in my head, "WHATTTT???!!!!" At the same time, however, I knew that getting angry or showing strong reaction would only make things worse, instead of making things better.. so, I pretended to stay calm..

"Guys, if the pictures are not good, just leave it!" I said to the boys.

"Ah, it's only the screen picture while waiting for the game to download, Mum," Ariq replied.

"Oh, OK.. then, just play something else while you are waiting.." I pretended to keep reading a book while talking to the boys.

"Oh, you're right! Why do I have to wait anyway?" Ariq said.

Then, I heard the sounds from Warcraft started again.. :-)

Later on, I explained to Ariq that sometimes free online games are connected by links to paid internet games and other games that are not meant for children. He might like those games if he ever came across them, but they were not suitable for his age, meaning those games would not add any knowledge to young children. Those games only filled children's brain with bad memories..

I guess, as a child, Ariq decided he didn't want bad memories, so.. he decided to choose to keep just a few games that he thought were good. I actually liked one of them (for him to play, I mean), which was 'Crush the Castle'. In that game, he had to build a castle and place the soldiers on each floor carefully so that when the castle was catapult, it wouldn't crash down.

I also asked my mother-in-law to 'take a glance' at the computer screen, every time Ariq is playing on the internet in her room, although so far, we felt that there was nothing to worry about. I told her my worries, and she could see my reasons.. :-)

Now, Ariq is back to his strategy games. He likes 'Age of Empires' when he is playing by himself. When he is playing with Aza, they would have lots of fun with 'Kid Pix Deluxe 1 and 4' where they can make all sorts of imaginative art works; photo frames, moving pictures, slide shows with fun backgrounds, dancing puppets, etc. (too bad I still haven't mastered the way to upload their masterpieces to the blogs)..

One thing I'm concerned about though, the fact that free online games on the internet are not well segregated, between the ones for younger players and adult players. Parental supervision are crucial in guiding children in using the internet for educational and entertainment purposes.

I hope in the future, website builders will be more thoughtful in managing their sites because obviously, our children need the internet for their entertainment, development and educational purposes more and more every day.. :-)

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