This post was originally written for Half the Sky Movement: The Game, a Facebook game that creates real change for women and girls.
While some parents shy away from letting their kids play games or learn about tough social issues, such as injustices against women, there’s a new breed of mothers using social games to teach their children about the world and the real issues people face in it — specifically the issues that women face worldwide.
It’s a natural progression that mothers would be the ones to introduce their children to social games, such as those on social networking site Facebook. After all, mothers make up a huge group of social gamers, with 54% of social gamers being female and 64% having children.
It turns out that social games can be a learning tool for children of all ages. We spoke with three mothers about how they’re using social games to teach their children — toddlers to teens, boys and girls — about women’s rights issues. Their stories were both heart-warming and inspiring. Here’s what they had to say.
The Basics and Learning about World Cultures
Above: Alexandra Chauran and daughter, Eris, play Half the Sky Movement: The Game together.
Alexandra Chauran — a married mother of two in Issaquah, Washington — believes it’s never too early to open the dialogue about how others lives and what other cultures are like. Alexandra, a casual social gamer, says her two-year-old daughter, Eris, sits on her lap no matter where she is, even when she’s at the computer playing a game.
These days, Alexandra and Eris are bonding over Half the Sky Movement: The Game, a Facebook adventure game that raises awareness and funds to empower women and girls across the globe.
While playing along, Eris asks her mother about what’s going on in the game — whether she’s curious about what animals are on screen or what the women are wearing. Alexandra says the game gives her the chance to teach her daughter basic reading skills in a new way, but also gives her the chance to introduce Eris to other cultures and international travel, as the game’s main character, Radhika, is from India and travels around the world, solving various women’s issues in many countries.
The game, especially its main character, also helps Eris understand her own environment better, says Alexandra, as there is a strong Indian culture in the family’s neighborhood. Alexandra even takes Indian dance classes and the family lives next door to a Hindu temple.
Alexandra says that the Half the Sky game is a positive experience for Eris, both an opportunity for her to learn reading in a fun and interactive way and a segue into deeper conversations around women’s issues when Eris gets older.
Mother of three Kelly Arthur, says her tweens — at 10, 14, and 15 years of age — are also fans of the Half the Sky game, but have also started learning about other cultures through a game called Free Rice, which donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme each time a user gets a quiz question right. Subjects tested include math, science, geography, and even SAT prep. Kelly has been most impressed with the foreign language questions, though — her kids are picking up other languages while helping end hunger. Social gaming, she says, has had a significant impact on her family.
Bringing Boys Into the Conversation
Henry Alcock, above, and his mother are avid Half the Sky game players and have turned their passion for helping into real-world change.
Lisa Alcock, a single mother from Valparaiso, Indiana, says that teaching her son how to be a good person and how to treat other people, including women, are her responsibilities as a parent. She also believes it’s important for him to know that there is a whole, big world outside of Indiana and that a lot of people in the world live under much different conditions than him and others in his community.
Alcock first learned about the Half the Sky game through a Facebook post by Nicholas Kristof, award-winning journalist and co-author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the book that inspired both the Facebook game and a PBS television series.
Her son, Henry, saw her playing one of the mini-games and was instantly draw to ask about what she was doing. She explained the game and saw he was interested, so she let him sign up to play alongside her.
The impact the game has had on Henry is absolutely inspiring. He used to pour out his bottled water or splash it around, as young boys do, for example, but after learning that people elsewhere have to walk miles for water, he told his mother, “Some people don’t have water, so it’s mean for me to waste it.” And he hasn’t dumped his water out since.
The game brings up a lot of questions for Henry about women’s rights, his mother says, like why women aren’t allowed to drive in some countries. “How does a mom take her daughter to the park?” Henry asked one day. When his mother told him that they just don’t as a result, he responded, “That just doesn’t make any sense!”
Lisa says she hopes to raise a child who is sweet and nice, who doesn’t feel obliged to live up to societal stereotypes of what it means to be a man: Strong, fierce, powerful.
“I have a responsibility to not put this egotistical, self-centered, sexist man into the world, because ultimately I’m shaping him, my parents are shaping him, his friends at school are shaping him,” Lisa says. “It’s my responsibility to put a nice, caring man into the world.”