As the Internet and technology expand into more and more aspects of our lives, it was only a matter of time before game manufacturers started to target children. There are now various games sites designed solely for the pre-teen market. Sites such as Monkey quest, Club Penguin, Bin Weevils and Moshi Monsters are now big business.
When my son first asked to go on these sites I was extremely wary as I had understood that these games were breeding grounds for bullies and other unsavoury characters, but after researching and speaking to other parents, I agreed. I allowed him to set up his own account on Moshi Monsters My Moshi Home and, with strict supervision, he started to play. He soon found various friends who had joined and made new ones online.
I discovered these sites can actually help children to learn about using the Internet in a safe environment before they become teenagers and have access to sites such as Facebook or Twitter where there is no monitoring and not much protection. The sites promote themselves as a place where children can interact with children from all over the world, encouraging tolerance, friendship and co-operation while playing games.
The game sites are usually moderated well and monitored for inappropriate language and parents control the password so can log in to check messages and conversations. Children also have access to moderators to report suspicious behaviour.
The games my son played helped to improve his hand-eye co-ordination, reading skills and time management. His typing skills improved and it offered an opportunity to teach him about the dangers of the Internet and how to protect yourself online.
These games can never replace face to face friendships and should be closely supervised by parents but,on the whole, they provide a child friendly introduction to cyberspace.