The Art & Science of Parenting in the Digital Age – A “Real-Life” June Holidays

“School’s out & Holidays are in! Where is your child heading this vacation?”
A quick scan of the top gaming websites indicate widespread entertainment options in the June holidays, ranging from tournaments in League of Legends & Blackshot, special events in Maple Story, crowds of children on Growtopia and the every-popular Minecraft & Clash of Clans.

In fact, the most attractive “holiday” for many young children is not any exotic destination; rather they are virtual worlds quickly accessible through computers & mobile devices.

1.    How can parents engage children meaningfully during holidays?
2.    What can parents to do help their children diversify from virtual pursuits?

When asked why they love video games, most children use the word “fun”. However, research into motivation for gaming reveals that different children play for a few different reasons:

(1)    To become powerful & to win
12-year-old Bobby plays games to compete. He owns a high-level Clash of Clans account with Town Hall level 9. Bobby is especially to scores “stars” for his clan during clan wars. He belongs to an elite clan and aims to attain Town Hall level 10 by the end of June holidays. He also wants to upgrade his Archer Queen to level 20.
Real life diversification

It is important to understand a child’s intrinsic motivation because he is also likely to take to real life activities with the same motivation. Bobby will probably enjoy competitive real life pursuits where he can achieve and do well. His parents may consider looking at his other talents and support him to build competence and achievement in sports, music, or other areas.

(2)    To make friends, interact for companionship
10-year-old Jane loves playing with friends in MapleStory. She is part of a guild with a few classmates. After school, they meet online to complete quests and help one another. Much of their conversation also happens online and the game is an extension of their real-life interaction. Jane loves the game but would not imagine playing without her friends.
Real life diversification

Jane will likely take to real life activities if she is with friends and experiences companionship. For teenagers like her, social activities with good friends will be an attractive alternative to gaming with friends. For balanced and purposeful development, Jane should consider interacting with friends who do not merely play video games.

(3)    To try varied styles of playing & to customize their game characters
13-year old Jansen loves to try all kinds of games. He usually does not stay with one game for very long. The one single game he has played for a longer time is Minecraft. Jansen loves the variety and creativity that he can exercise in the game. He loves to build different structures and immerse in the fantasy world.
Real life diversification

For Jansen, variety is the spice of life and he is quickly bored with any single pursuit. He needs interesting and varied real life hobbies to keep him engaged. A good “menu” for the June holidays will be to sign up for a few different short courses to learn new things. Visits to interesting places and new activities will also be a good alternative to simply building different structures in Minecraft.

“What is your child’s main motivation for gaming?”
“How can you support and customize real life alternatives matching the same motivation?

Originally written for Innova Primary School.

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