While there are many stories about video gaming being ‘demonised’ in the family home, there are ways that gaming can be used to help children form life-long habits.
Psychologist and academic Collett Smart has teamed up with Philips as a pro-social gaming advocate, calling on parents to have a discussion with their kids about the positive effects gaming can have on their lives.
Philips has released the Sonicare for Kids Connected Toothbrush which has an app that works via BlueTooth. There’s a little character called ‘Sparkly’ that you look after and mirror the character’s teeth brushing habits. The child brushes his teeth, following the brushing instructions, while he watches the germs melt away in the game. It then rewards him with daily scenery changes, food to feed Sparkly, clothing changes and more. This game aims to keep the child coming back, while instilling a healthy long term habit.
Collett’s own research, along with global studies, has revealed some video games can actually reinforce positive behaviours and habits in their kids’ lives – from brushing teeth to going to bed on time.
Collett told Women Love Tech educators have long recognised the potential of software and games to teach.
“We are beginning to see the therapeutic, rehabilitation and health-related benefits of gaming. Moderate gameplay can contribute to positive emotions, emotional stability and the reduction of emotional disturbances. Games can be motivating and fun, provide immediate feedback and reward, and adapt themselves to the level of the learner,” Collett said.
“Games can also provide repetition to the point of automaticity, encourage distributed learning across various areas and settings and they can teach for transfer of knowledge into other contexts. They can also utilise many excellent teaching techniques, improve self-esteem and mood as well as improve social skills.”
“This is used for socialisation and relaxation, but when this becomes the main use of tech, we start to lose the benefits we might see with technology. We need to be looking for games that:
- Allow children to create something and encourage imagination
- Teach language skills
- Are interactive and require a child to make decisions
- Encourage healthy off screen habits
- Encourage healthy socialisation
A recent study looked at children with asthma (and others with illnesses). Children who played a game that taught them how to better manage their symptoms and treatment coped better with the initial effects of the illness, compared to those that did not have access to the game.
Collett said “Some games even teach children about sharing and helping behaviours. We call these ‘pro-social behaviours’.”
“What we want are games that transfer positive behaviours across into real time situations,” Collett said.
A recent development example is the Philips’ Sonicare for Kids Connected Toothbrush which has an app that works via bluetooth. My youngest child is using it at the moment and loves the character called ‘Sparkly’ that you look after and mirror the character’s teeth brushing habits, Collett adds.
“The recommended two minutes for brushing is so easy for him because he is following along to the characters brushing instructions, while he watches the germs melt away in the game. It then rewards the him with daily scenery changes, food to feed Sparkly and clothing changes. This game keeps the child coming back, while instilling a healthy long term habit. That’s what we look for – games that install healthy lifestyle habits that transfer off the screen.”
Collett believes parents keen to introduce games into the home need to focus on parent-child relationships, with lots of communication and talking about boundaries.
Collett’s tips for parents:
- Keep technology in public areas at home
- Set time limits
- Set content limits
- Set age restrictions for apps and games
- Know passwords
- Watch movies and play games with your children and talk with your children about the content
- Teach children to look outward and think of others
- Balance online with offline activities (sport, family outings, hobbies, outdoor play)
- Make use of logging software
- Talk, talk, talk
- Negotiate a technology contract.
Remember that as the parent, you own the device. It’s ok to say ‘no’ and set time limits.
Continue talking to children about gaming habits:
- Educate children about media effects generally, and video game effects specifically.
- Regulate time spent gaming and balance this with face-to-face interaction, sport and other activities.
- Encourage pro-social and educational game use.
- Keep gaming consoles in public areas and out of bedrooms, especially at night.
- Play video games with your children – this effect on children is positive.
Read more about Psychologist Collett Smart here.
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