Here's a hard truth from someone who loves his gaming. I'm coming to the conclusion that games can be very, very bad for kids. Not that they have to be bad for kids. Just that they can be.
Modern video games, especially those designed for handheld gaming systems, be they Nintendos, PSPs or, increasingly, phone-based games, are so beautifully realised as pieces of immersive entertainment that there is no way a dusty old book can compete with them. Not on a level playing field.
With the imminent launch of the Nintendo 3 DS system the appeal of handheld gaming systems, to tiny little minds is only going to become more urgent. (I know this because my own tiny little mind is unfeasibly excited by the idea of 3-D gaming system that doesn't require you to wear a ridiculous pair of glasses).
Video games are addictive. I say this as a hopeless addict myself. Like many people I have had to remove all of the games from my hard drive, even going so far as to throw the discs out of my office. There have been times when I've asked people to take the discs from my consoles and hide them from me, so that I have some chance of at least getting on with my deadlines.
I know all about digital crack.
And that's what handing a kid something like a DS, or even an iPhone loaded up with Angry Birds is. You're giving them a crack pipe.
God knows I am only too aware of how tempting that can be when you're sitting in a restaurant, or a waiting room or anywhere with a couple of kids in desperate need of distraction. In many of those cases it's just not appropriate for them to whip out a book. But a phone? Too easy.
Here you go, kid, look after yourself while the grown-ups talk. They're like magic, these things. You can take kids anywhere now, as long as you have enough apps to keep them sitting still.
I fear is a price to be paid for it though, which is that increasingly children will look at passive, non-interactive, old, old media like the written word with weary contempt.
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