Social Media & Gaming

Social Media and Gaming are two things that parents express great concern over regarding their kids.  How much is too much? Is it an addiction? Shouldn't they be doing other things? 

What Parents can do

1. Ask Questions.
      Engage kids in inquiry and questioning (avoid lecturing, shaming or blaming). This is designed to increase their awareness of their choices and its' impact in relationship to other goals and options. The goal is to get the kid thinking for themselves, questioning their own use, their peer's use, the media messages they get and to understand better why you have the values you do and to adopt an internal set of personal values in these areas that will continue to guide them when they are not at home. 

Use the conversations to instill critical thinking and analysis, so that they can continue to practice that skill as they grow and when they are on their own making decisions. 

Below are some examples of conversation starters. 

* Does this make me happy? 
* What am I getting out of it? 
* What am I avoiding? Why? 
* What do I see in the world? 
* Are other people who do what I do happy? 
* What do happy people do? 
* Are the messages true on/in the media? 
* Are they a realistic view of the world? 
* Is the image people portray true? 
* Is my value determined by how many 'likes' I get? 
* What is my value determined by? 
* How can I remember that?
* How does this make me feel? Why do I like it? 
(Example: feeling powerful or clever in a shooting video game). 
* What am I missing out on when I'm doing this?

2. Share Stories.
Tell kids your stories and struggles. They want to hear and it gives them perspective and strength to draw on. Tell them others' struggles to help round out their understanding and view and not assume the things they see are true or accurate.  

I personally know many people, including adults whose lives look fabulous on Facebook, yet they are very depressed and unhappy in real life. They are looking for the life they imagine they 'should have' based on others' images on Facebook. Help kids realize that what they see in the media is not the whole picture, and not even close.  

3. Make it more realistic
Talk about the real life impact of the violence in games (and other media). Violence is sterilized, making it more tolerable.  In a shooting game, Ask about the person who was shot. Does he/she have a family? How would their mother, father, children, friends feel with them gone? How will they find out about this death? How will they live? What was left unfinished in their life? 

4. Help them see how they can use their skills and strengths in other areas.

How can they use their gaming skills in other areas of life? What strengths do they demonstrate through gaming that can be transferred?  
Gaming pulls people in because it uses basic principles of behavior modification, rewards and encouragement. Discuss how to use the same techniques in other areas of life, such as chores, school work, etc.  Have them find ways to turn life activities into 'games' and help them enjoy them. 

We are all drawn to things that make us feel good. Find ways to make life feel good and to notice and appreciate it when there. Too often we buzz through life without noticing many simple the pleasures and joys inherent in daily living, and then we feel more depleted than needed and look for an escape.  

All these questions challenge the unacknowledged assumptions found in media. You can help increase your child's thinking and reasoning skills by asking them and having interesting discussions about the endless possible answers to them.