Pokemon Go: What Parents Can Learn About Their Children (and Cyber Wellness)
Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. In countries around the world, both young & old have been hunting pokemons.
Pokemon craze in Taiwan
Pokemon craze in Singapore (Hougang)
While this drives some parents (and spouses) crazy, it is actually an excellent opportunity for parents to understand why their children plays games. This understanding will help parents to design meaningful alternative ways to engage their children for cyber wellness.
One of the best motivation theories used to analyse video gamers is the Self-Determination Theory. It identifies three basic needs that gamers try to fulfil through their activities:
- Competence - a sense of mastery (to win & be "good")
- Relatedness - a need for companionship (to make friends & interact)
- Autonomy - a desire to try different things and make decisions
For Pokemon Go, this may show up in the following ways (talk about these with your child and find out which applies more to them):
- I like to hunt for powerful Pokemons
- I like to be the first to collect as many Pokemons as possible
- I like to fight to take over gyms
- I try to reach the highest level as a Trainer
- I like to hunt Pokemons together with my friends
- I meet & speak to fellow Pokemon hunters
- I play the game because all my friends play it
- I love to collect different varieties of Pokemon
- I like to hunt & discover the different & new landmarks used for Pokestops
- I like the thrill of hatching different Pokemons from eggs
- I enjoy customising my avatar!
While most people will enjoy all different aspects, many will agree more with one of these categories of motivations.
So What If I Understand My Children's Gaming Motivation?
(1) It gives you an insight on what really drives your child
Beyond the various reasons that people usually give (fun, interesting etc), the motivations identified will likely explain why one is motivated with other activities as well. For example, the person with competence may also love other activities that allow him to overcome challenges or attain achievements.
(2) It helps you adjust your expectations of him/her
Many parents will be able to adjust their expectations with a better understand of a child's motivations. For example, a parent with strong "competence" needs may not understand a child who is primarily driven by "relatedness". For the child, friends will be the most important reason why he/she choose to engage in an activity. While achievements and mastery may be a worthwhile priority for the parent, the child will have a totally different set of priorities.
(3) It helps you design alternatives to engage your children
Understand a child's core motivations/needs is key to engaging them. A savvy parent will understand that it is far easier to engage a child with something that is intrinsically motivating compared to extrinsic motivations (e.g. rewards, punishment). For the child driven by "competence", it will be the easiest to encourage him to pursue another activity that gives him a chance to compete or to be "powerful". This may mean diversifying to a sport, music or art.
The above 3 steps form the foundational treatment protocols that I have been designing for Internet & Video Game "Addicts". It is usually pursuit of these "needs" or "motivations" in the virtual world that drives overuse.