At the age of eighteen months, my daughter would watch Baby Einstein videos, an educational TV show especially tailored for the little ones. She loved it. Now my three-year-old princess surfs through her favourite applications on the iPad and really enjoys tapping on her older brother’s DS console. Is it serious, doctor? Am I a bad mother?
“Of course not!” says a friend, an early childhood educator. Any exposure to electronic games, whether online computer games, video games on a console, or games on a digital tablet, is harmful if excessive, according to the experts. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that children aged two and under not be exposed to screens. Between the ages of two and six, children should not spend more than two hours a day in front of any type of screen.
However, electronic games do offer some advantages, according to Thierry Plante, a media education expert at the Habilo Médias national centre. “Online games present the same educational advantages as other games in general”, he says. He cites, for example, language games, puzzles, and other math games with which children “learn how to solve problems and gain self-confidence”.
The older the child gets, the stronger the advantages of online games become. “Research has proven that from the age of three, if the parent gets involved, children develop more pro-social behaviours”, Mr. Plante underlines. Around the age of seven, children are able to develop some specific skills that are related to games; for example, they have better coordination or more knowledge on a specific subject.
Of course, all games are not equal. The same goes for the media. Catherine Goldschmidt, a journalist specialized in games and toys, considers that “a tablet is less passive”. Here is a selection of her favourite applications of the moment (for ages 0-6).
– The Toca Boca series: “Excellent applications on clothing, cooking, health, etc.”
– Little Fox music box: “Three rhymes (in English), beautifully illustrated.”
– My Playhome: “Interactive home. Characters can be moved around and objects can be used.”
– Les Histoires de Lapin: “Three funny stories (in French) where the child must get involved.”
– Pango: “Very fun interactive book that must be read by a parent.”
Thierry Plante advises parents to follow three paradigms when their children play an electronic game: the context, the content, and the time. “We have to keep an eye on the games our children are exposed to”, he highlights.
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