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4th February 2000 at 00:00
In the 21st century, girls can do anything, so the slogan goes. But in the world of computer games, it would seem they are still controlled by boys.

A new study of seven to nine-year-old girls who see themselves as gamers - by Gareth Schott from London university's Institute of Education and Kirsty Horrell from Farnborough sixth-form college - reveals that even if girls own their own games console, they have to fight off their brothers to use it.

The researchers found that girls were excluded from the gaming sub-culture - to the extent that they had to depend on boys to learn the techniques that allow them to reach more complicated game levels. However, their male counterparts were often unwilling to give the secrets away.

The 21 girls surveyed strongly believed that the content and design of computer games on the market are biased in favour of boys. They disliked games such as Tomb Raider not just because of the exaggerated features of its main character Lara Croft, but because they preferred titles that feature animals or creatures and allow "non-purposeful exploration" and "creative play" rather than just competition.

Schott and Horrell are currently bidding for funds for a large-scale survey. More details from: Dr Gareth Schott, psychology and Special Needs, Institute of Education, University of London, 25 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA. CJ Recent research by the pressure group NCH Action for Children discovered that the threat f physical violence is a major source of fear for young children. Sadly it is all too real for some. Home Truths is a 12-minutes video created by Leeds Animation Workshop, which has been developing films on social issues for over 20 years.

It features five young people who regularly have to face a threatening adult and considers ways that they can help themselves and other members of their family who may also be being abused. It is a difficult topic to cover and not one that generally receives much of an airing elsewhere. The video is available for hire for pound;10 or you can buy it for pound;40 from the Leeds Animation Workshop, 45 Bayswater Row, Leeds LS8 5LF. Tel: 0113 2484997.

Britain was once described as a nation of shopkeepers, and we have always started young. Learning Resources produces toys with real learning applications for children who love playing shop (that's all of them) and its products have won a raft of awards.

Its solar-powered calculator cash register is not new, but it is worth consideration if you are looking for imaginative ways to support the numeracy hour. It has big buttons, a bell (sadly only to be found now on the most antiquated of registers, as above) and drawers for life-sized money. There's also a money activity book, plus cheques and money packs to support it. The register is pound;29.95, the cash pack pound;5.95, the chequebook and cheques pound;6.90. Call Learning Resources on 01553 762276 for a list of suppliers.

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