Wow... that's pretty demanding criteria for computer/Internet chess. We don't live in "the boonies," and, while DD1 is not a genius, (though she is very bright) she has been playing chess since she turned 4. She benefits from Internet chess because she can find live players of her own ability whenever she wants. It's her interest... one of her hobbies. [So I guess I was wrong above, she does get some benefit from computers/Internet.] DH plays, but they don't have time to fit in a game most weeknights and I have neither the time nor the desire to play chess with her. That doesn't make me a bad parent; we do plenty of other things together.
I'm curious what's special about 12?
I see this trotted out a lot. My 2.5 yo is quite certain there is no such things talking ducks or dogs, no matter how many books we've read featuring such animals. She also has yet to be fooled by a magic trick (she's got a knack of not falling for the distraction). I've read that children have trouble fully distinguishing the difference between commercials and programming through about age 7... and this I tend to believe... not that I'm about to let the girls start watching commercial TV. Would you please elaborate as to what you mean? Are you talking about watching something filmed (as opposed to animated) and not understanding that the characters are played by actors?
as for not thinking that there are talking ducks, etc I don't see how you can tell she doesn't think they exist.
at the age of 2 a child is still learning about real ducks and other animals, they barely have a sense of their self being a separate entity from the ducks, they cannot grasp such an abstract concept that real ducks do not talk and make-belive ones do, etc.....
there was a study done where they showed a children's movie to a group of 5 and 6 year olds and then asked them to explain what they thought the movie was about. Not one of the children showed an understanding of the plot.
The neocortex of a 4 year old is still in the early stages of development and the reptilian part of the brain is much more dominant at this age. When they see a movie or show and something scary occurs the reptilian part of the brain kicks in (the flight or fight instinct) which is a stress state for the brain. When the brain is in stress-mode then it is not functioning at it's best. Growth and development cannot occur. Also, the child's neocortex is not developed enough to tell the child that what is occuring is not real.
These early years are a time for the imagination to develop. Not the intellect. This is why children at this age are so creative. And it is also why they cannot distinguish real from fantasy to the degree that adults can. Night terrors, fantasy play, believing in Santa Claus, pure joy at hearing fairy tales (all very common occurrences at this age) are all signs that the child is unable to fully grasp what is real and what is not.
A child may be precocious in his/her intellectual development. Of course it is possible for a small child to read, do math, recite the alphabet, recite facts that have been poured into her. Do they have a true understanding of it? I do not believe they do. Abstract thinking, such as reading and explaining the scientific reasons why there is a thunderstorm, is not truly possible for most young children and it is not healthy for their holistic growth.
For the first 5 or 6 years I feel it is necessary to lay a strong foundation for LATER intellectual development by introducing them to the real world by appealing to the 5 senses. It is important for them to have lots of unstructured play time, to be sung to and told stories, for them to be outside in nature, for them to have beautiful open-ended toys and tools, for them to see adults engaged in purposeful work and to help us out (like cooking, baking, gardening, raking leaves, etc), and for them to eat and sleep well.
TV, games, junk food, heavy intellectual activity, over-stimulation, are all things that can be saved for a later date IMO. None of those things are necessary or healthy and there are some many other wonderful things to engage them with.
As for the age 12, well at that point the child is embarking on the stage where her intellect will become the focal point of her development. The neocortex is more fully developed and is able to distinguish reality from non-reality. The dangers of over-stimulation are greatly diminished. She is more in touch with the outside world and most likely eager to explore that world. And, it she hasn't been overly exposed to media before that, she will have a strong foundation to resist the "evils" of the media, such as marketing, body-image issues, the lure of an unrealistic lifestyle that is portrayed on TV, etc.....