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Gameboys and girls stay in to play

Like many 13 year olds, my son is a computer games hermit, emerging only to be fed and watered. Recently, to reassure me that he was not addicted, he volunteered not to touch the computer for a week. 1 kept a close eye on him for signs of cold turkey but apart from the fact that he recorded the music of his favourite games, so that he could listen to them on his cell phone, there was not one.

On the other hand, both his sister and I suffered as his boredom increased: I had not realised how we have created a life without him. Suddenly he was under our feet, muttering obscenities and flicking TV channels in the middle of our favourite programmes. What he seemed to have lost was the sense that there was anything worthwhile to do other than indulge in the challenge of computer games. Suggestions from me to go and read, swim or play badminton got a grunt and a dark look. I guess the adrenaline rush of moving up a level of a game cannot be compared with a gentle read or a few lengths of the local pool.

It may take another 10 years or so before society really knows the mental and physical effects of computer games on the young. Until then, parents can only feel their way in the dark as to how much and how often the games are allowed to be played.

It may take another 10 years or so before society really knows the mental and physical effects of computer games on the young. Until then, parents can only feel their way in the dark as to how much and how often the games are allowed to be played.

My son and I have compromised on two computer-free days a week, plus a half-day at weekends. But the two free days seem to have become moveable feasts – they were to be Mondays and Wednesdays but very often I will get a telephone call from him after school, asking to swap days as he has got hooked into a game at a friend’s house. However, even on computer-free days we have negotiated that he can use the computer for things that I consider creative or useful, such as chess or writing simple programmes. Nevertheless, he is constantly trying to expand these boundaries. He will innocently ask over dinner, “Mum, is SimCity a creative game?” and when I agree that it probably is, as it asks more of a player than simply fast reflexes, he immediately demands to play it on a computer-free day.

I am beginning to feel that the computer is slowly infiltrating our lives and that it will eventually emerge as a not-so-friendly despot, wielding its authority from the small box bedroom. It seems a lifetime ago that I naively brought the family a computer for educational purposes, along with a couple of games as light relief between the maths quizzes. Games were simple back then and Space Invaders and Tennis were the hit favourites at our local. It was only a holiday at the amusement arcades that children were exposed to these innocent novelties.

Now, however, my son and his peers seem to find just living in the present moment tedious unless it is masked by a hand-held cell phone game or the full fix of the computer terminal punching at full volume. This is supplemented by the ever-active television placed a foot or two from the terminal, so that any transitory moments of boredom, such as when a game loading up, can be alleviated by a dose of cartoons.

I fear not only that these young people are becoming unfit from lack of exercise but that the involvement in these games is so intense that it results in high levels of stress. I have occasionally found my son flushed and shaking after an especially intense game – and particularly after competing against a friend. No matter how often I explain to him my feelings about this – and he does appear to understand my anxieties about his health – the bottom line is, he has so much fun with this thing. His eyes come alive when he relates the intricacies and cheats of a new game, and his friendships seem to be enriched through it. These days it is not who is the best centre-forward in the school team but the computer games wizard who is king, and my son is fighting for that crown.

1. The narrator
1) forced her son to give up the computer for a while.
2) found it extremely difficult to cope with her son’s behaviour.
3) only allows her son to play computer games twice a week.
4) waited for her son’s breaking his word.

2. When her son gave up computer games, the narrator found out that
1) her son was fond of TV.
2) her son started to play a lot of sport.
3) the family got used to spending time without him.
4) her son was extremely boring.

3. According to the narrator
1) parents should not allow their children to play the computer.
2) parents should compromise with their children.
3) the side effects of playing the computer are still unknown.
4) there should be special days for playing the computer.

4. On computer-free days the narrator’s son
1) played the computer at a friend’s house each time.
2) tried to find different reasons to play the computer.
3) asked to use the computer for doing homework.
4) didn’t dare to ask to swap days.

5. The narrator says that initially she thought of computer games
1) to be very complicated.
2) to be easy and played occasionally.
3) not to require any skills.
4) to be creative and intense.

6. The narrator notices that children prefer
1) playing cell-phone games to playing computer games.
2) to watch cartoons when the computer is turned off.
3) to watch TV at full volume.
4) to be constantly entertained.

7. The narrator says that computer games
1) help children to relax.
2) help to understand parents’ anxieties.
3) can cause a lot of stress.
4) can be used as a competitive intense game.

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