International Symposium 1998 TOP

Dr. Kenji Nihei, Mr. Nobuo Isshiki

Activities of the Children's Media Committee in retrospect

I wonder what most people think when they hear of small children playing on computers in kindergarten.

Children are the future. As symbolized by this phrase, the sources of creativity and cooperative spirit growing in the children who will build the world of tomorrow are found in a childhood environment rich in emotional experience and intellectual possibility. As adults, we must pay close attention as to whether children have equal access to such an environment. A childhood in which intellectual curiosity has been fully satisfied, the wonderful experience of losing oneself completely in some activity, the heart-quickening sensation of meeting the unknown, the surprise at the miracle of life, the marvel of nature, and the gloriousness of science that can reveal its mechanisms; these are the things from which respect toward oneself and others, as living human beings, is born. The Children's Media Committee was established with the goal of creating a new "place" where children can encounter experiences such as these.

We first examined whether we could use multimedia to present something beneficial to hospitalized children and others who, for health or other special reasons, are unable to go outside. Dr. Nihei, a pediatrician and member of the committee, will report on this topic.

In thinking of children, one must always consider especially those children who are ill because, all children should have equal opportunities. In the growth and development of children, communication with family and friends, physical exercise, education, and free play are all important, and here, too, sick children are exactly the same. Because sick children are generally under much mental stress (isolated from family and friends, stress from relations with other people, etc.), and physical stress (e.g., stress from medical treatment or tests), those things may be even more essential for them. Under current conditions, however, sick children are often unable to adequately receive such benefits due to physical and social disadvantages. It is therefore necessary to provide support from a variety of aspects, among which the relation between sick children and other people is clearly the most important, and the multimedia technology that has been developed in recent years has a role to play here. If we take virtual reality technology as a means to make the imaginary a reality, those aspects of physical and social disadvantages of sick children actually become mere imaginary aspects. Thus, it may be possible for virtual reality to make up for these disadvantages. It may, for instance, be possible for a hospitalized child to experience "going" to a zoo or amusement park while remaining in the hospital, let a hospitalized child attend the school he or she attended before entering the hospital and play with schoolmates. The benefits of virtual reality should be put to use for sick children as much as for anyone else. Based on this viewpoint, we have tried many things to benefit children with serious illnesses, and we would like to provide a summary of our results and their significance.

Finally, in the coming generation, more and more importance will be placed on the increasing amount of "information," and we should think about just which information will touch the hearts of children, move and surprise them, and fill them with the joy of discovery and the wonder of contact with other humans.

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