Saturday, June 30, 2007

Real versus virtual danger

These days we read time and time again of how video games are dangerous. Shoot them up games encouraging them to think violent thoughts. Car racing games make them into reckless drivers. Police games encourage drug trafficking. Space shooting games fostering anti-alien prejudices. So this holidays I bought my 8 year old daughter, The Dangerous Book for Boys, for some good old-fashioned values.

Suffice it to say, in this iPod generation, that book was an incredible hit. She will not let it leave her possession. It goes everywhere and is read all of the time. She will happily recite the blurb on the back cover by memory to anyone who asks:
Recapture Sunday afternoons and long summer days. The perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty.
And so what does this book have in it that was so instantly engrossing? Well, to say it lacks a theme is an under-statement. It is just a random set of entrys (not even alphabetically ordered) with titles such as "Fossils," "The Laws of Football," "Dinosaurs," "How to play poker," "The Origin of Words" and "The Patron Saints of Britain." I mean how many 8 year olds do you know who aren't fascinated by St David of Wales and his heroic efforts to establish churches and monastries in the 500s?

But that is not all. It teaches you about life. For instance, in the entry "Girls" (which is a whole page), there is a list of 8 points of advice including the critical message to "be careful about humour" limiting yourself to one joke followed by silence. You just can't buy that kind of information.

So how does it stack up relative to those damned computer games? Pretty well. The entries with the biggest hits were those that compelled activity. Within minutes "the greatest paper airplane ever" whizzed by. But then came the pleas for the base equipment for larger projects. So there were calls to make a bow and arrow, slingshot, box car, crystals (literally drugs I think), battery (!), skin tanning (including hunting the game) and tripwires. Unlike those computer games where there is still debate about whether they lead to poor behaviour, there is no doubt with this stuff. In this book, there is direct and unequivocal linkage between the playtime activity and the potentially criminal behaviour. With computer games, you still need a gun to be violent. But this stuff tells you how to make a weapon. Things were just clearer in the olden days and when it comes down to it, the kids know when they are just getting virtual stuff as opposed to the real deal.

Anyhow, if you would like to order this book, click on the link below. I can't write anymore as I need to extract a poison dart from a younger brother before he collapses (again)! Good to be an involved parent again rather than rely on the electronic babysitter.