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Monday, September 23, 2002

Brats get busy with Net
Jayant Murty

Illustrations by Sandeep JoshiYOU'RE sceptical about this new technology revolution in which everything is going digital. Is the Internet all it’s said to be? The answer is yes! Here’s why every parent should learn the ropes and help their family members go cyber.

Rameswaran’s family goes cyber

My family discovered the Internet about two years ago. Now they can’t live without it. My wife, Chelvi, is on the net daily, either e-mailing her friends or keeping track of monthly household expenses online. My 14-year old daughter, Maya, loves to send her friends e-mails with picture attachments and music clips of the latest boy bands and information on her favourite bands. I’m still amazed by her ability to search and locate these Websites. My 10-year old son, Ravin, ever the game nut, is equally adept at checking out all latest games sites and can reel them off without pausing to breathe.

It is not all ‘play’ on the ‘Net for the kids. I was very proud when Ravin realised how valuable a tool the ‘Net could be for his research. He had a class assignment where his teacher asked him to pick a subject of his choice and prepare a presentation on it. Ravin loves airplanes and knowing his grandpa had been a gunner on a B-17 bomber during World War II, he decided to do his report on the B-17 aircraft. Instead of pouring over various reference books at the library, he hit the Net and found many interesting sites devoted to the B-17 that had a wealth of information and were rich in multimedia content, including photos and videos. By electronic "cut and paste," we had enough photos, information and even video clips to make a really great presentation on the B-17. His teacher loved it, and his peers thought it was ultra cool. Thanks to the ‘Net.’

I must also admit my own excitement at my introduction to cyberspace when my cousin in the USA started corresponding through e-mail. Pretty soon, I was responding with pictures as well and our relationship has grown from an annual Divali card exchange to a rewarding electronic reunion several times a year. An Intel Pentium 4 processor-based PC connected to the Internet and combined with today’s digital devices, like a Webcam or even a digital camera or digital camcorder, lets users keep up with today’s increasing needs and provides with ultimate experience to learn, communicate and have fun.

An encounter with Pokemon Land

Does this pattern sound familiar to you? The more I try to get my wife and children to do something, the more they resist. So when the children showed interest in the Internet, I didn’t push it. Then two things happened — the oldest, Philip who is 13, discovered cars and Simon, at nine years old, fell in love with Pokemon cards. Both were driven to the Internet by peer pressure. Philip has discovered loads of car sites that provide him with information and pictures of the latest sports and rally cars, dragsters and the latest futuristic-looking cars. He knows the "specs" for all cars and will report on them in great detail to his buddies and me. His other interest is, of course, games, and he’s rapidly become a specialist on online game sites on the ‘Net, as he can comment on just about any online game site you can think of.

The younger son, Simon, is passionately into these Japanese cartoon characters in animation. It isn’t too hard to deduce that I’m talking about those little pocket monsters called Pokemon. He knows all good Pokemon sites and has sharpened both his navigation and negotiation skills by trading Pokemon cards and adding to his already huge collection. He uses the ‘Net to research on which Pokemon cards will bring in a higher value to the serious collector.

The good thing is the kids are not just using the Net for cars and Pokemon. Both Philip and Simon do use the ‘Net and other Web tools frequently to research on school projects. Philip often makes good use of his pocket-sized digital camera (that I bought for him as a gift last year) to capture interesting visuals to presentation in school. He also feels that visuals can help to spice up physics in a classroom. By the way, his latest project is entitled, The road to Pump up Horsepower of a Ferrari. So you can use the PC and the Internet to strike a balance between work and play for your child.

The above two tales illustrate how important it is to capitalise on your child’s interests and use the Internet as a tool to fuel his or her interests even further whilst maintaining that all important balance. It keeps children away from mischief. And don’t you think that’s reason enough for any parent to consider tapping both PCs and the Internet’s potential?