Too Late for the Revolution?

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I worry whether my cautious approach to video gamesis in my child’s best—or worst—interests.

Jeff Weinstock THAT’S MY DAUGHTER on the cover this month—the one in the foreground. We needed a kid to play Dance Dance Revolution. It turns outI have a little clout around here.

A controlled photo shoot is about as much exposure to video games as I’m comfortable with her getting right now. As persuaded as I am by their educational potential, I’m wary of what they’ll do to her attention span, which I find myself protecting as vigilantly as I guard her sugar intake. Video games should come with the recommended dosage on the packaging, the way ibuprofen does. A sign in my pediatrician’s office says no more than two hours on the computer a day. How much do you allow a 6- year-old who weighs 45 pounds?

Just so I know I’m keeping up with the Joneses, I bought her some educational games, the Leapster L-Max, a few CDs from Knowledge Adventure. I also found an excellent website, Starfall.com, that teaches reading. I know full well technology is central to her future—I just wonder if it’s as critical to her present. Then again, I worry my restraint is setting her back.

She reciprocates my anxiety with her own disinterest. She doesn’t care for any of the software we have. The buried treasure of the right-click, such a treat to me, is lost on her. She likes her Barbie computer, which has some spelling and memory games on it. But she’s drawn more to the branding than to the product, what with her Barbie scooter, her Barbie eyeglasses, and her book featuring career-oriented Barbie in various job poses. Who knew astronauts got so tan?

But on the occasion I find her gaping at the TV screen, manipulating her handheld L-Max, her primo stylus skills notwithstanding, I’m torn. I see that engrossed look in her eyes and I can’t tell if it’s reverie or focus. I don’t know if the lights are on and learning is under way, or if the lights are dimmed and vegetation is spawning.

She gets bored easily, though. It’s not the game, it’s her nature; she’s not a real competitive sort. Gathering points, advancing to the next level—she seems at peace with the level she’s already at.

I can’t say that that troubles me. She will discover the right-click soon enough, because she’ll need to. She’ll need plenty more than that, and I hope I can give it to her. But for now—kid, you’re 6. No, I already told you, I’m not buying you DDR. You want to bound around according to a game maker’s dictates? Try hopscotch.

— Jeff Weinstock, Executive Editor

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2007 issue of THE Journal.

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