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Computing for Boys

By: Charlotte Fereday - Updated: 27 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Computers Boys Educational Learning

Computers, and computer games, have long been seen as ‘boys’ toys’, but how do boys today use computers? And is their relationship with the computer a positive one?

Computers For Learning

A survey by the department of learning and education brought to light some interesting issues surrounding computer use. In many instances children with access to a computer at home submitted better quality coursework, but only with those children who didn’t regularly use the computer to play games.

The different ways in which boys and girls use computers was also shown to have an impact on their academic success, with girls using the computer for projects and homework and boys predominantly using their computer time for game playing.

However computers can have a positive impact on learning, especially with boys. A recent spelling survey showed that boys using a computer demonstrated a 65% improvement in spelling. The teacher involved put this down to the boys being more interested in interacting with a computer, even for a spelling test, than in working ‘by hand’. This suggests that computer aided learning could have real educational benefits for hard to motivate boys.

Boys And Games

It is thought that roughly 70% of school aged boys play computers games every day, compared to only 32% of girls in the same group. These games range from online multi-player games through multi player games consoles to solitary games played on or offline.

Computer games have had a lot of bad press over the years but recent medical research has shown potential health benefits in computer gameplay; including improved attention span and concentration levels in ADHD sufferers. As with most things gaming is unlikely to cause problems if it is enjoyed in moderation. Current guidelines recommend a maximum of 2-3 hours screen time each day (which includes TV).

More of an issue is the type of games that children, especially boys, play. In a survey for a computer gaming publication, Game Studies, boys and girls were asked what type of games they liked to play. 33% of boys most enjoyed ‘action and fighting games’, followed by 21% who most enjoyed sports’ games.

Getting The Right Balance

Computers are increasingly important in our daily lives with our children often outsmarting us when it comes to computing knowledge. Looking to the future computer literacy will be one of the key skills employers look for. So how do we get the right balance to best prepare our children for the future?

The problem with boys’ relationship with computers is that it is usually far more games focused than their female classmates; while girls are doing their homework boys are competing over game scores. But this passion for gaming can be turned to positive use if it feeds an interest in programming, web design or other more transferable computer skills.

From a health point of view computer time should be monitored and limited, ideally balancing it with an equal amount of time spent engaged in physical activity. Excessive screen time has been linked to obesity, anti-social behaviour and skeletal development problems if the computer isn’t setup appropriately for the user (i.e. with a suitable chair, desk and lighting.)

Computers do deliver huge learning advantages, especially for boys who struggle to engage with more traditional educational methods. The key to maintaining a positive relationship between boys and computers is in steering them towards more long term learning benefits and away from highly sophisticated war games.

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