to My Virtual Child!
OVERVIEW OF MY VIRTUAL CHILD
Congratulations! You are the proud parent of
a virtual child! You will be raising this virtual child from birth to 12 years of age. Your virtual
child has a unique set of characteristics at birth, some of which were
influenced by your answers to the assessments you completed when you first
logged onto My Virtual Child. These characteristics will gradually emerge and
affect his or her behavior and development. In addition to these individual
differences, there are also universal aspects of development that all virtual
children will display. My virtual child covers physical, social, emotional, and
cognitive development at several age levels. This will give you an opportunity
to visualize "the whole child" at various points in development.
HOW MY VIRTUAL CHILD WORKS
As your virtual child progresses through each
age level, you will read about events occurring in his or her virtual life and
you will be asked to make decisions about your virtual child. Answer the
questions the way you think you would act as a real parent. You will have a
"partner" (which you can assume to be your spouse, unmarried partner,
or whatever you like). You and your partner are assumed to be the biological
parents (a male and a female) to make the programming of My Virtual Child as
simple as possible. You should assume that a week or more passes between each
event or question at a particular age level. The
events that happen in your child's life, and the decisions you make as a parent
will gradually change your child's inborn characteristics, and will shape other
characteristics of the child that emerge after birth. The virtual child’s
behavior may vary across ages and settings, although there are basic
personality and intellectual traits that remain generally consistent. In
addition to the events and questions, you will see typical assessments of your
child's behavior at the end of many age levels (pediatrician's report,
developmental assessment, psychologist's report, and various school report
cards). Some terms and concepts may be unfamiliar to you. Approximately 50
short definitions are available as you roll over certain terms. More complex
concepts (such as temperament, personality type and multiple intelligences) are
explained in boxes that pop up at appropriate points. Finally, to help you
visualize some of the concepts in My Virtual Child, brief videos are available
at almost every age level.
There are 13 sets of critical thinking
questions (three questions per set) built in to the program. However,
you will not be answering these online questions. Instead, I will be providing you with a
handout containing the questions you must answer. These question sets are
designed to be written up as brief papers or used as the basis for discussions
in class, and are designed to help you connect your virtual child’s development
with course concepts. Generally, you
will need to run through two or more age levels before answering the questions
I provide. Your answers should be neatly
typed and carefully proofread and spell-checked, as you would with any other
writing assignment. Your grade will be
based on the thoroughness and accuracy of your responses.
NAVIGATING THROUGH MY VIRTUAL CHILD
At any point, you can look at past events,
questions, and answers by clicking on the time line at the top of the screen.
Click on "Resume Questions" to go from the time line back to the
questions where you left off.
You can log off at any time; your information
and completed responses are saved automatically. Should you accidentally skip a
question, you will be prompted to go back. If you see a screen that says
"Time Passes", there are no questions at that point for your
particular child. Continue on.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M BEING A GOOD PARENT?
Many students wonder how they will know when
they have given the "right" response to the questions posed to them
as parents. The goal of the program is to convey the broad sweep of child
development from the point of view of a parent observing a child. The way this
is done is by showing you "snapshots" of a child's typical behavior
over a period of time (e.g., one year). The program is not fully interactive;
that is, the child in the scenarios rarely responds immediately to something
you do as a parent. Instead, the child gradually changes, in response to
parenting choices, innate temperamental or personality characteristics, random
environmental events, and general developmental principles. In other words, as
in real life, you won't find out whether you have made the "right"
choices as a parent until you see how the child turns out at various ages, in a
variety of contexts (e.g., home, school, peer group).
Feedback about child outcomes can be gleaned from your observation of the
child's behavior, from comments or reports from teachers and other
professionals, and from other "outcome data" (e.g., grades in school,
success in peer relationships).
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR PARENTING MY VIRTUAL
Although feedback about parenting choices is
not provided on a question by question basis, some guidelines for being a
"good" parent to your Virtual Child can be articulated. In many
cases, the "right" answer is the answer provided by developmental
research and theory, which often corresponds to common sense (e.g., comfort a
crying baby). In some cases, the "right" answer to a question will
depend on the child's developmental level or personality. In other cases, there
is more than one "right" answer. Generally speaking, the more extreme
answers (i.e., overly strict or overly lenient) will lead to more extreme
outcomes with regard to the child's behavior, but this may interact with your
child's temperament. Some Virtual Children are harder to get along with and to
control, as appears to be the case in real life. Occasionally someone (a
developmental examiner, a teacher, a psychologist, or your child him/herself)
will tell you directly how you are doing as a parent in terms of two
dimensions: warmth/affection and control/discipline. These dimensions are the
basis for four main parenting styles discussed in your book (authoritative,
authoritarian, permissive and neglecting). You and your classmates may
deliberately decide to vary methods and styles of parenting in order to see how
this affects your Virtual Children.
Have fun raising your Virtual Child!
My Virtual Child Assignment
Instructions: Answer the questions listed under each
assignment briefly, citing specific examples from your child. Type up the answers in 12 point font,
double-spaced, with a recommended 3-page length for assignments except where
noted. Assignments are worth 10 points
each. The assignments add up to 63
points with the additional 37 points coming from your participation in the 3
in-class Parent Forums (roughly 12 points each).
General guidelines: A good answer will address every part of the
question, and will describe the child’s behavior and provide 1 or 2 supporting
examples. In addition, wherever
possible, you should relate your descriptions and explanations of the child’s
behavior to the concepts, theories and research covered in class or in the
book. Please avoid expressing an
unfounded option – try to base your arguments on research studies and
conclusions, or a theory that seems well supported by the research in the
field. The questions are printed below.
Infant physical and cognitive development: main ages are 3 mos, 8 mos, 12 mos, and 18 mos (run through 19
months). 10 points
- How does your baby’s eating, sleeping and motor
development compare to the typical developmental patterns in the first 8
- Is your child delayed or advanced in any area of
development according to the 19-month developmental examiner’s
report? Based on what you have
studied, do you think this is most likely a result of specific biological
or environmental factors?
- Describe and give examples of changes in your
child’s exploratory or problem solving behavior from 8 through 18 months
and categorize them according to Piagetian and
information processing theories.
- Describe your child’s communication and language
development in the first 18 months.
Is your child developing at a typical or atypical rate?
Infant social and emotional development: main ages are 8 ,12 and 18 months (run through 19 months). 11 points
- At 8 months of age, was your child an “easy”,
“slow to warm up”, or “difficult” baby in terms of Thomas and Chess’s
classic temperamental categories?
On what do you base this judgment?
- How is your child’s
attachment relationship to you and your partner developing? What is happening at the 8, 12 and
18-month periods that might affect attachment security according to Bowlby and Ainsworth, and various research studies?
- Analyze your baby’s temperament in more detail at
18 months than you did at 8 months.
How would your describe your baby in
terms of the five aspects of temperament utilized by the Virtual Child
program (activity, sociability, emotionality, aggressiveness vs.
cooperativeness, and self control).
Has your child’s temperament been stable over the first
18months? A blurb defining and
providing examples of the five aspects of temperament is provided at 12
months, but you should seek out further explanations of temperament from
your textbook. Explain how the
concept of goodness of fit (also discussed in the blurb on infant
temperament) applies to your interactions with your child.
- Analyze the implicit assumptions that might be
guiding you in your own parenting practices. Choose three theories from the following
list and discuss whether your parenting choices reflect a major concept
from these theories (classic learning theory, social learning theory,
attachment theory, Piaget, sociocultural
theories, information processing theories, ethology,
or developmental neuroscience).
Assignment 3: Early
childhood physical and cognitive development: main ages are 24 months through 3
years (run through 3 years, 11 months).
- Have there been any environmental events in your
child’s first three years that you think might have influenced his or her
behavior? On what do you base your
- What activities and experiences you and your
child have engaged in might be promoting healthy behavioral practices and
an interest in physical activity?
- Describe the development of your child’s language
and communication skills and discuss how these might be affecting his or
her interactions with you and your responses.
- Describe the development of your child’s memory,
information processing and reasoning skills, including the theory of mind
and explain how these changes might be affecting your interactions with
Early childhood social and emotional development: main ages are 24
months through 4 years (run through 4 years, 10 months). 12 points
- How is your child progressing on early childhood
issues, such as learning household rules, learning to follow routines,
listening to you, developing self control and learning to get along with
others? Does your child have any
behavior or emotional problems at this point? Why do you think these problems are
occurring and what are you doing about them?
- How might your child’s development have been
different if s/he was raised by people with a different socioeconomic,
ethnic or cultural background? Base
your answer on specific evidence of SES/cultural
differences from the textbook and class lectures. Note, if your cultural background
differs from the predominant culture in the U.S., how might you have
raised the child differently or made different decisions based on your own
culture (e.g., being stricter or more lenient, emphasis on
assertive/independent vs. cooperative behavior, emphasis on family
relationships vs. relationships outside the family).
- How would you characterize your parenting
style? How have your specific
parenting techniques changes since infancy? Can you find any examples of how your
parenting might have affected your child, based on research cited in your
text or lecture?
- How would you characterized
your child’s personality? Would you
say that your child is primarily overcontrolled,
undercontrolled, or resilient? Support your argument. The program stated at the beginning of
age three that the Virtual Child’s behavior at age 3 and 4 is designed to
resemble on of three personality types. The personality types combine some of
the temperamental traits with which you are already familiar. The overcontrolled
category refers to a child who is cooperative and follows the rules, but
is shy in social situations and anxious and clingy under pressure. The undercontrolled
category refers to a child who is uncooperative or even aggressive, does
not follow the rules, is not particularly shy in social situations, and
has a tendency to become distracted and overly emotional, particularly
when under stress. The resilient
category refers to a child who is cooperative and follows the rules, is
friendly, non-aggressive and outgoing, able to focus on tasks without
being too distracted, has good regulation of his or her emotions, and is
adaptable to new situations.
Middle childhood physical and cognitive development: main ages are 24
through 8 years (run through 8 years, 11 months). 10 points
- What activities and experiences you and your
child have engaged in might be promoting healthy behavioral practices and
an interest in physical activity?
- do you notice any improvements in language,
communication, memory, reasoning or theory of mind since age 4? Give specific examples. Does your child have any special needs
with regard to cognitive or language development at this point and what do
you plan to do?
- Describe changes in your child’s academic skills
between ages 6 and 10 and assess how well these skills are
developing. The first grade report
card (age 6; 11) and the psychologist’s report (age 8; 10) will be useful
for this but you should also incorporate your own observations. What are you doing to help your child?
- How smart is your child and in what areas? Think back to the blurb on multiple
intelligences that appeared at age 6.
Find specific evidence regarding your child’s verbal, logical-mathematical,
spatial, musical and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence from your
observations of your own child as well as the psychologist’s report at age
8 years, 11 months.
Middle childhood social and emotional development: main ages are 6
through 10 years (run through 10 years, 11 months). 10 points
- Describe your child’s personality in terms of the
three subtypes (resilient, overcontrolled and undercontrolled).
Which aspects of your child’s social behavior and emotional
responses reflect continuities from earlier behavior (e.g., at ages 3-4
years) and which seem to be novel for this age level?
- Describe some examples of your child’s behavior
or thinking that you think are due to typical American gender role
socialization and explain why you think so. Several examples can be found at ages 6
and 8. How closely does your
attitude toward gender roles correspond to typical American attitudes, and
if there is a discrepancy, to what do you attribute this (e.g., cultural background,
attitudes of your own parents, etc.)?
- How well is your child adapting to social
situations in the home and outside the home? Does your child have any behavior or
emotional problems at this point?
Why do you think these problems are occurring and what are you
doing about them?
- Has your parenting changed since the preschool
period and if so, why do you think it has changed and what effect might
this have on your child? Refer to
your textbook or lecture notes for evidence on typical changes in parenting
that occur in middle childhood.
Extra Credit Questions
Run through 14 years, 11 months.
- Describe any physical or behavioral sings if
incipient puberty, including changes in physical appearance, behavior or
- What activities or experiences at ages 12 and 14
has your teen been involved in that might promote healthy behavioral
practices, physical fitness and skill in sports.
- Describe changes in your child’s thinking (e.g.,
changes in humor, abstract thinking, or theory of mind) and discuss how
this might be affecting his or her interactions with you & your
responses and his or her interactions with peers.
- Using the 7th and 9Th grade
report cards and your own observations, summarize your child’s academic
skills at this point. What specific
activities might promote some of these skills? What careers or courses of study might
be best suited to your teen’s abilities and interests?
Run through 18 years, 1 month.
- How important have your teen’s relationships with
peers been to his/her social development, emotional well-being and school
achievement from 14-18 years of age?
- How has your teen adjusted at 14-18 years of age
to typical adolescent issues such as risk-taking, drugs, alcohol, and
sexual interests, and how have you responded to your teen?
- As the program ends, what pathways does your
child appear to be on in terms of physical, cognitive, social, emotional
and moral development? Choose four
aspects of your child to discuss.
To what extent could you have predicted these pathways based on
what you knew of your child’s earlier development?
- Describe two specific ways in which you think
your parenting mattered for your child’s development, based on evidence
from the course regarding the contributions of parents to child
- Describe two specific ways in which your child
developed that appeared to be influenced by factors outside your control,
such as genes, random environmental events or the general influence of
contemporary middle-class American culture.