Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Think I'd Rather Have the Cash

Apparently, it’s becoming trendy to pay your kids allowance in “screen time” instead of cold, hard cash. If you are having issues regulating computer / TV time I guess this is one way to handle it. Maybe somebody should make a coin activated Bob and then you can pay the kids in cash and get it back when they feed dollar bills into Bob to get online :)

Seriously though, what do you think of this idea? I can’t imagine any reasonable parent regulating access to books, or board games in this way. Why is it different just because it’s electronic and interactive? My 10 year old daughter spends a lot of time playing Horse Isle. In fact, of more than 30,000 people playing the game, she currently has the 2nd most valuable horse. She has to understand the rules of the game, apply them in way to maximize the value of her horses, negotiate trades and sales with other players, synthesize the new additions to the game and decide how to best use them, etc. Reading comprehension, applying the rules, finding the loopholes that can be exploited for advantage, and negotiating all sound like fairly good skills to have in both video games and real life. Both kids like to browse Wikipedia. Why would I limit that but give them unlimited access to a set of hardbound encyclopedias? My son owns books on Roman Legion infantry tactics because he thought they would help him get higher scores in Rome: Total War. (I don’t know if it actually helped). He knows far more about ancient Rome than I do, yet he has never had a “class” that covered it. Again, why would I limit that?

The line between education and entertainment has become very blurry. There is a lot going on in games and online in general that is directly applicable to education. It’s not as simple as schoolwork happens in the books and fun happens in the games. It’s all mixed up now, and as parents I think we need a more nuanced view of the value of gaming or online time. Certainly a lot of time can be wasted online. But a lot of good happens there too.

Humorous aside - check out the picture in the article. The boy is wailing on Guitar Hero about 3 feet from where his sister is trying to do homework. I hope that was just a posed picture for the paper and not the normal set up in that house!