Feedback: Dangerous games

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The Independent Culture
Like Eva Pascoe (Network+, 14 April), I am not anti-computer. Using a PC for my own work, I resisted the pressure to buy a Nintendo, Playstation or the like, and now share my PC with my nine-year-old son. He enjoys using the computer; current favourites include a flight simulator, astronomy explorer, and making his own animated cartoons.

He uses a word-processor to correspond with friends, and follows up his hobbies and interests on the Internet. He does not play violent games. He is a keen musician, an active Cub Scout, reads voraciously, and plays with a wide range of construction and other non-computer toys. (He also read, and agreed with, Eva Pascoe's article.)

Computers can play a major role in widening children's horizons - but they can also mean children spending their lives in their bedrooms, glued to screen and "joy"-stick, missing out on the real joys of childhood. Parents need to exercise control in order to achieve a balance. That requires knowledge - knowledge is power, after all - and teachers and schools could play a role here. Unfortunately, at the moment the only information they are likely to get is that provided by the manufacturers. Parents - and children - deserve better.

There is a world of difference between the games your correspondent Lisa Donovan (Letters to the Editor, 17 April) describes - playing with swords, bows and arrows, etc - and the violent computer games under discussion. In the former, children create games from their own imagination, often making or improvising the "weapons" themselves. Many such games are played out of doors and require little or no money. Violent video games, on the other hand, are big business. Children are targeted via slick TV and magazine advertising, and via peer-pressure. Besieged parents, knowing little about technology but just wanting the best for their kids, will buy equipment and games that they can ill-afford.

Whether playing violent "computer" games leads to violent behaviour or attitudes is in doubt. Vested interests - games manufacturers and distributors - would have us think not, much as the tobacco companies have disputed a link between smoking and cancer. But as a parent, teacher and computer user myself, I am horrified to see the material that young children - at primary school and even pre-school - are exposed to, and the amount of time that they spend playing these games.

I believe that spending so long staring at a screen and jabbing at a keypad or joystick will lead to a generation of children with damaged eyesight, repetitive strain injuries, poor posture and possibly increased risk of migraine, epilepsy and more. This is not necessarily an argument for banning games, but certainly one for looking carefully at the material our children are exposed to, and protecting them if necessary.

Mrs Kate Jones

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