Children discover the world and learn more and more about how it works over time. This also includes rules and values on how people treat each other. Media help them to understand the world. As a place for information and orientation, they answer many everyday questions and support children in their personal development.
Children and young people need role models to guide their own personal development. They look for these not only in their immediate environment, but also in films or social networks, e.g. on YouTube or Instagram. But computer games can also provide orientation, because in them stories are told and roles are tried out.
In computer gaming, you have a character, an avatar, with whom you can act as you wish – at least as far as the programming of the game allows. Because someone has thought about what is possible and set certain rules of the game. In play, even children and young people understand what happens when they act in a certain way. The advantage is: Here they can try themselves out without it having any consequences for their real self and the real environment. You need to make decisions that make a difference, but in a protected space. In some cases, the experience gained in “real life” can also be used.
Most computer games don’t work without following rules – even if not all of them can be easily applied to your own life.
Popular among young people, Minecraft can be played in creative mode so that players build a world together. To do this, they must agree on rules in advance so that their shared world does not end in chaos. Perhaps there are also ideas about how this world should look – whether, for example, everyone lives together or everyone has their own house, whether there is a mayor or everyone decides together. Here, children and young people can already learn how politics works and why it is important for our lives with other people.
In other games, the roles of the characters are predetermined, such as Monument Valley (Part 2). In this puzzle game (for mobile devices) you have to go through abstract worlds in several levels. The characters, a mother and her child, have to find a way out – sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs. The game is played alone. Unconsciously, certain values are conveyed, such as overcoming hurdles or support from the mother. Children can experience how it feels to have to overcome an obstacle alone, but with the support of their mother.
Community, trust, tolerance: sometimes there’s more to computer games than meets the eye. Play together with your child and see if certain values, such as role models, are conveyed. Use this to talk with your child about it and consider whether it fits with your and his ideas about life.
(This article is partly based on the results of a scientific paper by Karolina Kaczmarczyk, see also here.)