As the use of smartphones grows in popularity with school children, educators are struggling with ways to teach young people how to recognize and handle the potential dangers they could face, and a smartphone game app called “Soul Negotiator” could be the answer teachers are looking for.
Developed by mobile game maker Gree Inc. in cooperation with a professor of education, the app teaches young users how to handle themselves when using smartphones through game play. With the app, children are asked to play one of 10 different storylines simulating situations they might find themselves confronted with, such as child pornography, Internet addiction, account hacking and online defamation.
Players are asked to answer multiple-choice questions as the story progresses about how they should react to avoid trouble. Based on their answers, the player’s character will end up either in a happy, normal or bad situation.
The app was developed to deal with the increasing number of students and young people who find themselves in trouble stemming from their smartphone use, Daisuke Fujikawa, a professor of education at Chiba University, the co-developer of the app, told the Japan Times on Wednesday.
In 2013, elementary, junior high schools, high schools and schools for students with special needs reported a record 8,787 cases of bullying involving the use of computers or cellphones, according to the education ministry.
Despite the increase in problems associated with smartphone use, the current education system “has not been able to stay apace with such drastic change,” Fujikawa said.
Conventional education has traditionally concentrated on less specific issues and has primarily been aimed at teaching children not to do bad things, and to help others in trouble, he said.
To overcome this issue, Fujikawa said he developed a “less didactic” method of teaching with the game, which included storylines players feel can relate to their daily lives. He also made the app as approachable as possible for school children by using anime characters.
“Despite the potential dangers, a digital device is essentially a tool to expand possibilities for children,” Fujikawa said. “Instead of keeping them away from these devices, we want them to learn how to use them effectively (and safely) to create a path to new era.”