Kids learn at school. They learn at home. They learn playing with their mates… And now increasingly kids learn online.
There’s little doubt that the internet can be an incredibly rich and rewarding classroom in its own right. Children can use it specifically to train their brains on certain subjects, or they can simply pick up on the social complexities learnt through engaging with others in virtual play rooms.
There are terrific benefits to kids who play online. They include:
Your child might have a head for maths and find communication a real challenge. Or maybe they’re a whiz in English but can’t seem to get their noggin around numbers. Virtual playrooms can cleverly disguise the art of learning – it is so wrapped up in the art of having fun that kids have no idea they’re developing numeracy and literacy skills. Club Penguin does a particularly nifty job of keeping the lid on overt learning – children save and spend virtual coins and therefore not only learn to count, but also to manage their money. Reading and writing skills are also secretly at work as kids interact and socialise with other Penguins. There is even a Club Penguin newspaper (with a global distribution, no less!) to which budding journalists can submit their stories.
Watch those little fingers fly over the keyboard and you see quick smart just how effective virtual playrooms are for developing typing skills. In an age that finds it novel to write even a shopping list, super-quick and accurate keyboard skills can’t ever be over-valued!
Knowing how to behave around others, how to ‘read’ situations and even how to interact on the most cursory of levels is a skill that actually must be learned. Virtual playrooms are a wonderful platform for encouraging the development of such skills. This is especially true when kids feel comfortable and safe in their environment – going into a world such as Club Penguin, which works around-the-clock to keep its visitors free from cyber bulling (Club Penguin forms part of the Australian Government’s Easy Guide to Socialising online. The Alannah Madeline Foundation’s eSmart Schools is another example of best practice online) helps make this a positive world in which children genuinely want to meet, greet and have fun with each other.
Through ‘Coins for Change’, Club Penguin members are able to donate the money they earn virtually to causes that matter to them. Each Christmas donations are tallied and $1-million in real currency is divvied up to charities worldwide. To date, over US$10-million has been donated to more than 40 countries. Such a great initiative encourages in kids a sense of social responsibility to look after those in less fortunate circumstances, and to think and act globally.
Games that encourage creativity through play can be incredibly beneficial to a child’s development. For example, giving a child a blank canvas in which they can control how their Penguin looks, acts, what it does etc. lets your child have fun, get creative and feel empowered. Players have even been known to emulate real life aspirational role-play scenarios, for example – many children build restaurants in their igloos and offer other Penguin friends ‘jobs’ as waiters, some construct beauty parlours or classrooms and role-play with familiar role models like parents and teachers. The impact of real world current affairs can be seen through kids role-playing on Club Penguin too, as Disney has noted kids constructing bush fires in their igloos and asking other players to band together and help put them out. Some more notable role-play situations that have truly amazed the Disney team include when players have (on their own accord) held memorials in their igloos for the Boston bombing, Japanese Tsunami, 9/11 and Breast Cancer awareness. It’s incredible how children’s creativity, passion and view of real life events come across in the safe online world of Club Penguin.
If you’re concerned about your child using the internet, visit some virtual play worlds and find out more about their online safety policies, and about what the children do when they’re there. If you head to virtual worlds belonging to trusted businesses with strong reputations, chances are this playtime is going to be learning in disguise – and isn’t that a great way to get life’s lessons!