Stories about: media

Online science games for kids: What makes a good one?

Photo: whiteafrican/Flickr

My editor put the question to me recently: “Tom, can you do a little research on good online science games for kids?” Turning to the web, I found several sites that offer games for kids to learn about all kinds of science – PBSKids, EdHeads, Ology, and Science Kids are just four that I came across, and the Children’s Hospital Trust has developed games as part of its Generation Cures website. But the question I couldn’t get out of my head was, “What makes a good science game?”

For starters, I asked my six-year-old son, the one who asks me every night at dinner, “Dad, what was the coolest science that you heard about today?” (Word to the wise: explaining stem cells and zebrafish to a six-year-old can be tricky.) His reply: “Thoughtful games, Dad. I like games that make me think.”

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A digital upbringing

It seems positively quaint to care about the amount of time kids spend watching TV. These days, a television is often mere audiovisual wallpaper for a teen or preteen who is texting on his cell phone while listening to music on earphones and, on the computer, checking out an online video (oops, he sees you! quick screen change to homework).

What impact is this full multimedia immersion having on a generation of kids? For all the social and educational benefits of digital devices, studies also have linked texting and the state of being constantly wired to bad educational and health outcomes. But no one’s really quantified this exposure, or the degree of media multitasking – until now.

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