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Q: I just read your answer about computer games for 2 year olds and it made me wonder if there are any good computer games for my 7 year old son?
Questioning Computer Games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A: Dear Questioning,

Yes, there are computer games that are good for your 7 year old. Although we do not directly endorse any particular game maker, we can offer you a basic rule of thumb for picking out the good ones: Any game you share with your child should impart information, skills, and ideas that you want him to learn. Video and computer games are incredibly powerful teachers, and your son will learn whatever they contain.

Once you find a game you think might work (or that he has mentioned wanting to play), read any information you can find about it online, preferably reviews from other parents or from professional sites that you know how to use to guide your choices. Then, introduce the game by playing it with your child. This will be a great opportunity for you to become more aware of what he will experience as he plays, and it will also allow your son to show off his computer skills, which can give him a nice self-esteem boost.  

Doing this will also allow you to talk about the content with him. This is particularly useful if the game includes content that you’d prefer he not learn, since it gives you the opportunity to address it. Should you decide that you don't want him to play this game after what you've seen, use this as a learning opportunity for your child. Be up front by explaining that he won’t benefit from it and how it might harm him, and model for him that it’s okay to walk away from an unhealthy experience—even if you’ve already spent your money on it.

That said, many logic games, role-playing games, and socially conscious games can create very important virtual realities. Your child can learn a lot about a whole variety of topics, from natural science to social sciences to history, and play out his developing ideas in these virtual realities. Just note that even the most harmless seeming games often have some component of shooting or aggressive behavior because this is the easiest way to engage kids—especially boys—of this age group. Therefore, I recommend paying attention not only to the content but to also to the actions that are required to advance in the game.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

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