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Online Gaming - the good, the bad and the possible

With children spending an average of 38 hours a week in front of a screen we are starting to notice the negative effects reflected in areas such as homework, general health and fitness and behaviour. Quite often the teacher is the one to notice the effects first as children will be tired in class, their involvement in group activities will become withdrawn and their general get-up-and-go will have diminished. Gaming providers dedicate a reasonable proportion of their websites to tools and resources to avoid these scenarios but more often than not the problem goes unacknowledged.

Children enjoy playing video games and there is great potential for learning via gaming, By ensuring parental controls and observing safety tools within gaming we can enable children to harness learning potential. Skills such as team building, problem solving, hand-eye-coordination, fitness and wellbeing, communication and numerical reasoning (among others) are all skills that can be cultivated if gaming is used in a positive way both in the classroom and at home.

There are potential perils that we must be aware of and ensure that the children in our care recognise. Not only in online gaming environments but also in the everyday connected world we are encouraged to share music, films, photos, personal information.

PC Alan Earl, UK Safer Internet Centre;

"Young children often display great skills in the online environment, using critical thinking, strategising, communicating and to a certain degree empathising. All of these skills however can be overridden by a lack of forethought on who they are connecting with and what information they share. Unfortunately that attractive gaming environment may also be attractive to those who would target children whether this is for sexual grooming, fraud or simply bullying. Often the skills these children display are overridden by their naivety in providing personal details to those they believe to be online 'friends' leaving themselves vulnerable. It is important that parents consider talking to their children about online safety in the same way they would on 'off line' issues. Start that dialogue now and make your child a critical thinker".