Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: Computer games are bad for children? Pah. - Sept 06

From: Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's a work day in Balamory today! Well, it is for me in our house anyway. The house has reached "I can't live like this any more" proportions and I have a lot of WoW guild admin to do. 200 people in our guild now! It's like running a business, but without the salary. Sometimes, much as I hate to say it, it's like running a school. About half the guild is comprised of teenaged school pupils, and boy does it show. They ask questions without it ever occurring to them to go and look for the answer and they pester and nag for attention, putting me and some of the other officers into the token position of school teacher and treating us, presumably, the same way. I'm learning a lot from the social psychology aspect: how to establish and maintain a position that's neither exhausting nor domineering. We must be doing OK, because we're constantly growing and people rarely leave the guild.

It's also fantastic to share the same hobby and activities as my teenaged offspring. I'd recommend it to any parent. All that nonsense about computer games being damaging? I'm amazed and astounded at the skills Tom, Ali and Zara have picked up and developed through this game and others, but mainly this one. My extremely dyslexic Tom, who the Ed Psych's said by rights shouldn't be able to read and would always struggle with written communication, now leads 40 people at a time through 5-hour 'dungeon runs' several times a week, which involves researching, interpreting and conveying strategy, answering about 12 questions a minute, typing so fast you can almost see smoke coming off the keyboard and all spelled correctly and properly syntaxed. He puts the school-educated non-dyslexics to shame. And all self-taught. Zara, who had dyslexic tendencies too, has developed similar abilities. It's not just the communicating that's required, it's also the people-management skills.

They're both guild officers like myself and each has direct in-game pastoral care of about 30-40 players. The other officers are adult professional types in their 30s and 40s. It's not a competition, but my brood out-performs them and sometimes makes them look immature. People are always incredulous when they hear how old they are. Zara is usually taken for an 18-20-year old and Tom for someone in his mid to late 20s. Anyone who knows them through the game, who may have had doubts about home education or a particular fondness about forced schooling very quickly changes their mind when they hear about the kind of upbringing Tom and Zara have had. Ali runs his own guild on another server, so he's doing the same things but with a different set of people.

And we always have things to chat about (hotly debate!) in our house and I have opportunities to guide them parentally when it comes to things like dealing with conflict, especially other people's. They have to find their own way of course, but I'm able to constantly demonstrate my own tried and tested techniques, in the same way as I would if we were running a family business together, which is the natural order of things, I feel.

The recent reports and discussions about childhood depression and anxiety have been fascinating, haven't they? And only one eminently professional finger pointing at the school system out of all those involved. Experts, I hope you're all reading this (well, I can dream!) but my kids have always had limitless computer and TV time and they are neither depressed nor anxious. The difference between them and their invariably depressed, anxious friends is SCHOOL. Hold the front page! Being made to leave your family home every day and conform to an inhumane prison-like worker training system is unhealthy for people. It's so obvious I can't believe they can't see it. Surely they can. My teenagers do tons more writing, reading, research than their school-educated peers but they're in control, they have the choice and they're not being coerced into doing it, so they want to do it. Nobody is standing over them marking their work and they don't have to stop when the bell rings.

So those people who say the country's children are depressed and anxious because they have too much access to computer games are 100% WRONG. Happy children are children who have parents who are there for them and they're children who are trusted to choose their own activities and to learn for themselves what makes them happy, interested and fulfilled. Stick that in your eminently professional pipes and smoke it, you highly paid experts who plainly can't see the noses on your faces. Duh.

Oh and if it's not the computers or the TVs, it must be the single mothers, huh Mr Blair? Well my 17 year-old son has yet to be arrested for being drunk and disorderly so I'll bow to Mr Blair's obviously superior fatherly knowledge on that one. In fact my sons haven't been arrested for anything, and nor have they ever been drunk and disorderly. Something's a bit wrong with that theory too, then? Hmmm.

Oh, oh I have to get back to work. There'll be more ranting from me tomorrow no doubt, now I've finally found my soapbox again. I wondered where it was.

posted by Gill at 8:48 AM 5 comments


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