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Computer, Video Games, Internet and Child Development. Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Ajomuzu Collette Bekaku, Cameroon Jul 1, 2004
Technology , Education , Citizen Journalism , Digital Literacy   Opinions
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There is no gainsaying the fact that the world is today much smaller than it was scores of years ago. Likewise, it cannot be argued that the same world is a more convenient habitat than it was then. This state of events is largely owing to the enormous technological progress made over time; especially as evidenced in the information and communications sectors. In fact, with the recent growth in computer and internet technology, the world has been put at our finger tips such that, just by clicking the mouse of any computer hooked up to the internet, one can access almost any sector of the World Wide Web and get just about anything one desires from love to crime. This has not only given room for more leisure than mankind could ever have imagined, but has equally provided solutions to the cost and time problems usually associated with pristine technologies. In fact, people from almost every age group use and benefit from the developments in computer and information technology in one way or the other. For instance, while the average adult combs the internet for news events and business opportunities, youngsters go for music, films, video and computer games, all downloadable from the internet. Educational opportunities opened up by the digital revolution to youths are equally enormous. While distance learning has been made possible to advanced users, beginners entertain themselves with educational games; which can range from simple comedies to instructional quizzes and puzzles.

In fact, from a strictly didactic perspective, young users, provided that they get the appropriate parental guidance, can raise the level of their IQs simply by playing some of these video and computer games. Take for instance, Eric - a young secondary schoolboy in the Buea locality, has built a well known reputation for himself, both among adults and his mates, in the area as far as the game of scrabble is concerned. It does not take a crystal ball to see the level to which this young man’s vocabulary will grow were he to continue in this direction. The young man, the story goes, developed the love and skill for the game from the computer. It is evident that when used wisely as Eric does digital technologies in general and computer games in particular can be a really efficient way of coping with stress.

Be that as it may, the great strides that digital technology has taken, has not been without adverse implications for the global society. As a matter of fact, observers of the information revolution are beginning to argue that the world is becoming more insecure and stressful; especially with the irrational use to which IT applications are being subjected by users. The most vulnerable group of users to the negative consequences of these technological innovations have been identified to be beginners. This writer is primarily concerned with the adverse effects these can have on the development of this group of users.

Researchers have in fact indicated that computer and video games - albeit they have their didactic advantages - are relatively more harmful to the growth and smooth development of children. This is because most often than not, the games are loaded with anti-social features such as crime, violence, crude and obscene language, and sometimes even outright pornography! Unfortunately, these have for the most part been indicated to be the category of games beginners find highly attractive. A survey of public computer and video game halls in the Buea Municipality reveals that the games youngsters play most fall within the afore mentioned categories.

Research studies on the impact of computer generated crime games on character development for children exposed to them, indicate that there is a substantial connection between youth violence, computer violence, video games and films in general.

Unlike TV and films where the child is usually just an observer, the sad thing with computer and video games is that the child is playing the game as an active participant either against another child, or against a computer program. There is no debate, therefore, on the fact that playing violent computer and video games encourages aggressive behaviour in children.

As a participant in the game, the child’s entire psychological processes are slowly but surely conditioned in a way that the natural tendency from violence and killing is suppressed. In the words of Grossman, a military psychologist, crime and violence oriented computer and video games inculcates in the child “the skill and will to kill” just as military training does to soldiers.

Further, constant exposure to these facilities may lead to addiction. Take for instance some of those very violent versions or computer games where the child participant considers the duel with his rival a life or death issue. It equally becomes a question of reputation and ego-boosting as the young player must be able to eliminate all his opponents in order to emerge champion. This means mastering all the secrets of the game. This, no doubt, requires much skill and attention so that the child becomes very absorb in it; twisting his body and raising his legs in desperate efforts to crush his enemy. Worse still, the more you win, the more you move to superior stages and the more you are encouraged to stay on in some of these games. Conversely, the more you lose, the more the desire to revenge and regain your lost reputation pushes you to train more and return. Clearly, it becomes a kind of vicious circle with very serious implications on the child’s normal growth process and education. Such is the world of computer and video games, and a development that has left child psychologists and social observers very worried.

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