Nothing beats being a real dad;Opinion

15th October 1999 at 01:00
THIS week I want to share my experience of test-driving an amazing concept in interactive learning, not disimilar to that brand new Virtual Boyfriend CD we've all been hearing so much about.

Virtual Parenting has been developed to allow someone like me (hereinafter known as a dad) to hone his parenting skills on a range of child types. Like the boyfriend programme I'm able to choose with whom I interact. Should I for instance select Offspring Type A (known as "The Sarah") my opening gambit (for example the suggestion that our TV goes off for just a little while) will be met with a deep adolescent sigh and possible sulking.

Offspring Type B (Ginny) will react quite differently, however, and an argument will almost definitely ensue. The same request to Offspring C will result in my probably being ignored - or jumped upon - depending on how much infant testosterone Tom has coursing through his system at the time.

Virtual Parenting is a highly educative experience and invaluable in helping the user (aka dad) to come to terms with his total impotence within the household, something that evidently increases the longer you use this programme.

One difference between the Virtual Boyfriend CD-Rom and Virtual Parenting is that VP has no in-built constraints (cyber boyfriends are programmed to blank off if inappropriate subjects like sex or drugs get raised, whereas over the past 13 years I've found it almostimpossible to impose any constraints on my three prototypes).

Mind you, this is not to say the Child Types don't impose constraints themselves. An inappropriate question like "Why don't you tidy your bedroom?" or "What did you do at school today?" meets with complete interface dysfunction. Nevertheless, I would heartily recommend the experience of Virtual Parenting.

True, it's not cheap. Compared with CD technology, the cost of Virtual Parenting is astronomical: pound;2,500 per child type per annum. And that's assuming you haven't clicked the icon "educate privately" or bought ice-skates recently. And there is, as far as I can see, no off switch; the programme runs for the rest of your life but then no CD-Rom ever puts its arms around you and says, "I love you, Dad." And that, in the end, is what counts.

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