Keeping the Net Generation (and their parents) Safe
Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.
The National Psychologist
School is out for the summer and children are already bored. The Net
Generation is the first to be born into a world of omnipresent technology. Using
their Game Boys, portable CD players, cellphones, and more, children are almost
never without their technology.
In our research, we have found that many parents are ecstatic about
technology’s emerging role as the perfect babysitter. You only have to watch
children stare transfixed at the television set or rapidly press the buttons on
their handheld games to know that technology's "Holding Power" has captured
By now, only a few weeks into summer, many children are spending their days
staring at and interacting with technology. What can you do to help your clients
and their children stay healthy and sane with all the surrounding
First, families must set limits on the use of technology. Here's a reasonable
plan. You tell a child or teenager, "If you use technology for an hour, then you
must do a social or physical activity without technology for an hour." A
reasonable limit is 1-2 hours. Don’t just inform them that time is up. You will
hear, “Just a minute, I need to finish what I am doing.” The drawing power of
computer games is that you are never “finished.” Set a timer to provide a 5-10
minute warning signal. Make sure that the child or teen understands that the
warning signal says it is time to finish.
Second, recognize that most children know more about technology than their
parents. This often leads to parents accepting any technology use and not
questioning the fit with their child’s developmental level. Here are some
- Discuss any new technology acquisition or use with the whole family. Talk
about its benefits and any potential downsides. This goes for mom and dad,
too! It is not just children who are at risk.
- Any technology should be used in open sight. No computers, telephones,
game boys, and televisions behind closed doors.
- Check often what the children are doing with their technology. Monitor
their use and let them know that you are doing so.
- Make sure that television programming, videos, computer software and
Internet use are developmentally appropriate. Television, videos and software
have age ratings. The Internet can be filtered according to a child's
developmental level. AOL, for example, has "parental controls" where the
parent designates what the child may do with e-mail, chat and surfing.
Game software is a big business.
Steer children away from software with excessive violence. Research has shown a
relationship between playing violent software and aggressive behavior.
My capable assistant software
reviewers, Christopher (age 12) and Kaylee (age 9) reviewed many games. Here are
their comments (Note: most games come in both Mac and PC format on the same
both loved the Jump Start Adventure series. Chris thought that the 3rd and 5th
grade adventures presented fun and challenging puzzles. He was impressed how
the 5th grade adventure taught math, art, English and Science without you
realizing it. His major complaint is that the story lines take "too long" to
finish. Kaylee was equally happy with the 3rd grade version.
and Kaylee particularly liked Lucas Learning's Star Wars series (Pit Droids,
The Gungan Frontier and Droidworks). Pit Droids' charming, but challenging
puzzles kept both kids actively involved. Kaylee liked to solve the 300+
prearranged puzzles and when Chris realized that he was no longer interested
in them, he built his own for Kaylee. Chris still plays The Gungan Frontier,
which teaches ecology by having him create an entire ecosystem.
Interactive has a wonderful array of choices for all ages. My children loved
Gizmos and Gadgets where they learned lots of scientific principles through
hands-on experiments and puzzles. The entire Carmen Sandiego series and
Oregon/Amazon Trail has taught them more geography, science and history than I
expect they will learn in school. When they were younger, they both loved Kid
Pix and for birthday cards, signs and posters they use PrintShop and
Neptune, Treasure Mountain and Treasure Math Storm from The Learning Company
teach math concepts within a theme. For example, in Neptune you control a
high-tech sub to gather capsules containing lost data reports for a top-secret
research station. Avoiding sea creatures and solving math problems helps you
reach your goal and save the ocean environment.
reviewers also highly endorsed Museum Madness, which has you helping M.I.C.K.
the robot travel throughout 25 galleries of a closed science and history
museum to uncover a mystery.
children gravitate back to 3-D Ultra Pinball for realistic and sometimes quite
complex pinball. Chris is really into Pharaoh where he is building an Egyptian
enjoyed Hollywood to create scripts and then have the characters speak his
words. Along the same lines, Edmark's Destination series helped Kaylee feel
the thrill of accomplishment as she printed her first e-book. Edmark also
publishes many programs for early learning including Millie's Math House and
Bailey's Book House for preschoolers.
personally reviewed and enjoyed the challenge and creativity involved in
Herinteractive's Nancy Drew series written "for girls who aren't afraid of a
Logical Journey of the Zoombinis is a fun one, too. The Zoombinis need your
help in solving 48 math and logic puzzles. The puzzles change each time you
play and they get more and more challenging as you make your way to
and I just reviewed Starry Night Backyard, which was amazing! Tell the program
where you live and it shows you what you would see outside at the current
time. If it is nighttime, you see all the stars (adjustable for the amount of
city light). Constellations are shown along with planets, satellites and more.
To see how earth looks from Mars, travel through 3-D space. When the program
came on the screen, I started reading the manual while Chris just picked up
the mouse and started clicking. He had more fun until I put down the manual,
grabbed the mouse and clicked away myself.
- Finally, there is no doubt that the most popular handheld computer game is
Pokemon, played on the Nintendo Game Boy. This is a non-violent game
(characters faint instead of being killed) is quite "addictive," but in
moderation it teaches memory and categorization schemes.
Go to http://www.superkids.com/
for more choices. To get the best price online, go to http://www.mysimon.com/. Enjoy!
Copyright, 2000, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with
permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper
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