When adults think of social media, they generally think of platforms like Facebook, or Instagram. And while these ARE social media in a purist sense, we have to take a step back and look at all the ways our kids can be social, using digital media. This means the games they play on their devices, their video games, and even their text apps if there is a group chat option.
Your child probably has a favourite game right now on their device – likely something to do with kittens or other magically cute creatures. Here are a few things to ask them about the games they play.
1. Are there games inside the game that they must play to earn the ability to play the base game? What do these games look like? Do you just see a bunch of colourful bubbles? Or do they offer skill development in pattern recognition, spatial planning, critical thinking, time, or asset management? Do they have time or life limits on how often they can be played?
2. Does the game offer a community option, where your child can connect with others to get more lives, assets or tools? Does your child know how to use this option? Rather than telling them “don’t ever do that”, instead ask them how it works. It will give you valuable insight into whether they’ve considered, or have, used the “social” option. Spoiler: you don't want them using this feature.
3. Does your child ask for money to pay for the game? Almost everything in a game can be earned, if you’re patient and plan how to achieve it. Paying for it – just like in adulthood – is a shortcut. This is a great way to teach your kids time management, project planning, and asset management.
4. When does your child play this game? Many kids will use a game on their device to manage anxiety or stress. In fact, gaming is a great tool for minimizing anxiety!
Once you’ve learned all this, now you can develop a “Game Plan”. Help your child plan when to play, and how to play. Find out what they’re working toward, and ask about their progress at the dinner table. The more interest you show, the healthier their behaviour will be around the game, and the more opportunity you’ll have to guide them towards responsible digital device use.