As a professional who works with kids and teens you will know many families who struggle with issues related to gaming and technology use. You will certainly know plenty of children/teens who are *desperate* to be non stop gaming/watching online video this school holidays. You will also know many parents who have lectured their kids/teens about the need for a balance of activities until they are exhausted and who frankly want to throw all i-devices/gaming consoles off the edge of the nearest roof.
Thousands of kids and teens all over this country this school holidays are spending hours each day gaming. It’s not surprising. As a society we’ve introduced a set of humans with partially formed brains (and willpower skills) to a highly addictive, satisfying and fascinating activity and naturally enough they are having trouble turning it off.
But of course we know that it’s not healthy for young people to be on screens 24/7. But if they can’t limit their own use - this means parents and carers have to take charge. But this is tough too. Dealing with technology use for parents can be exhausting, worrying, constant and tiring.
There are many strategies to help kids and teens with their tech use. Positive communication is at the foundation however of all the most successful strategies. Of course, communication is easier said than done. One of our tasks as professionals is to help parents/carers to communicate well with their young people around this issue.
Below I've listed 17 questions which – if asked compassionately and at the right time (ie not when they’ve just lost the last Clash of Clans round or are stomping around about not being allowed to be on screens like “all of their friends”) – may increase positive communication about the issue. I've found them most useful myself.
You might like to try these questions out with kids/teens you work with - and then send them on to parents you work with and see if it helps in some small way.
- What do you think you learn /what skills do you improve from your gaming/watching online video? What areas of your brain do you feel are working?
- (Hint - If they say “I don’t know”, ask about hand eye co-ordination, problem solving, visual scanning of the environment, reaction time/speed, reading skills, ability to work in a team etc).
- Do you think these skills help you in other areas of life?
- Does your gaming/watching online video make it easier to relate to other kids/teens who you know from school? Why or why not?
- Does your gaming/watching of online video use help you be a better friend in some ways? Why or why not?
- What areas in particular do you find fun/do you like about your gaming/watching of online video?
- Would you explain the way your favourite game works to me?
(Hint – if the child/teen gives you a three word reply, gently press for one or two more details. Eg - What is the aim of the game? What kinds of strategies are used? What are the mistakes people make in playing this game? What levels are you up to)
- Can you tell me about your favourite you-tuber/online video channel? (Hint – if the child/teen gives you a brief reply, gently press for one or two more details. Eg-where do they come from? Why are they successful when others aren’t? What is funny about it? Where did you learn about this?)
- What three non-gaming/non-tech activities do you most like to do?(Hint, if the child/teen has difficulty answering, then change question to…”If you really had to do some activities which didn’t involve gaming, tell me three which you would do?”
- Are there any non gaming/video watching activities someone could do with you/or help you get started on/help you set up which you would enjoy? Any others? Any others?
- In your opinion, if your friends were on their devices for every moment they were awake this school holidays, what would be bad about this? (Hint – if you get resistance at this point, back off. It’s also okay to make suggestions – eg imagination, longer term concentration skills, reading skills, how it affects people around you – and see what they think)
- If your family were going to set up a schedule for the next week only about what times of the day/night you would and wouldn’t game – what do you think is reasonable?
- If your family were going to set up a schedule for the next week only about how long (how many minutes/hours) you would and wouldn’t game each day/week – what do you think is reasonable?
- What do your family thinks or feels about your gaming/video watching? (Hint – if child/teen suggests they feel negatively about it then go on to ask - Does that bother you – and if so, why?)
- Would you like adults to be more interested in your gaming/what you are watching – and ask you more questions? Why or why not?
- Do you know what adults' concerns are about your gaming/video watching? If so, what are they? How much do you agree with each concern?
- What don’t adults understand about why it’s hard for you to turn off gaming/video watching?
- Is there anything I or others can do to help you cope better when you have to stop gaming/watching video?
- What are the things you do (or say to yourself) which help you be less upset when you have to stop gaming/watching video?