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TEXT  |  Computer Games as a Part of Children’s Culture

Johannes Fromme

The International Journal of Computer Games
Volume 3, Issue 1, May 2003

http://www.gamestudies.org/0301/

“Interactive video and computer games belong to the new multimedia culture that is based on the digital computer technology. These games have become increasingly popular in the past 20 to 25 years, especially among young people. In the beginning they were mainly played by youth and young adults who were enthusiastic about computers. During the early nineties, however, video and computer games became a matter-of-course in the everyday life of young people, including children.”

Patricia M. Greenfield

Greenfield was one of the first scientists to draw attention to the possible positive effects of watching television or playing video games. She was skeptical about the common fears that new media were bad educators, because they taught children and young people things like violent behavior. Greenfield addressed new media as cultural artifacts which demand complex cognitive skills from the people who use them, and these skills and the related knowledge that come from using them are not obtained in instructional contexts like schools, but acquired informally (Greenfield, 1984).

“Clash of Media Cultures”

Teachers, parents, and others engaged in education are members of a generation during their primary socialization grew up with different media culture and has a different media experience than the young generation of today. These informal experiences have influence over their attitudes toward new media and on their educational concepts and actions. The term “new media” implies media which someone did not grow up with and are often looked at with distrust and skepticism.

Three studies were conducted in Europe to survey interactive media uses by children.
1. Surveyed 11 countries on the number of minutes a day spent on the computer using the internet, the PC (not for games), and electronic games. The results of the survey found that more time was spent on the computer playing games than for more “serious” types of computer use.
2. Surveyed the various uses of the computer, focusing on the difference/similarities of boys and girls 12 to 19 years old.
(programming, internet browsing, PC dictionary, write texts, draw pictures, use CD-ROM, learning software, games (with others), games (alone).)
3. Surveyed the various uses of the computer, focusing on the difference/similarities of boys and girls 6 to 13 years old.

(programming, work on photo/video, draw pictures/graphs, PC dictionary, listen to music, internet/email, work for school, write texts, computergames.)

Children’s Leisure Time Activities

Another study focused on children’s leisure time activities and if electronic games were consuming more of children’s days. The results from the study found that lack of access to a computer was not an issue. The children in the survey spent a significant amount of time playing outside games/sports, and playing with other children. The children did not even consider video games their favorite activity, it was just something that they liked to do.

The conclusion of this study suggested that video games did not lead to social isolation, and in the case of boys actually had the reverse effect, that boys often sought others to played video games. It was often cited that the children would play video games when they were bored, had to wait, or if the weather did not allow them to go outside. Video games had not replaced active play times but replaced “staring out of the window” time.

 Reaction

This journal explores a range of topics that are key elements in my study of Children + Technology. The first is the “clash of media cultures” between older generations and younger generations and the use of the term “new media” to imply the media someone did not grow up with and the skepticism that ensues because of unfamiliarity with the medium. The second point of interest was the statement that lack of computer access was not an issue. This statement is not difficult to believe but it is difficult, not to consider what economic status/poverty issues play in children’s access to electronic media and how up-to-date the media they are interacting with is. A third element was the other leisure time activities children were involved in. This survey was conducted on children from European countries. It would be interesting to see how the data would be different based on children of other countries and cultures and whether the children live in urban, suburban, or rural contexts.

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