MAPPS: How to Talk to Your Kids About Video Games

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Are video games affecting your children negatively?

Are you unsure if computer games increase violence?

Do you have questions about how to manage your child and the online gaming world?

MAPPS is a parenting frame that I developed in response to the ongoing debate about the impact of video and computer games on children. Gaming is here to stay. It has already entered our daily life. Look around. Are you a frequent flyer? Is your organization talking about badges or leader boards?  Do you have incentive programs? Do you use coupons? Do you go for  deals like “buy 2, get the 3rd free?” All these are traces of gaming in your life. It is no different for our kids.

Video and computer games are the virtual playgrounds. And our roles of parenting our kids on playgrounds applies to the virtual play ground as well. So how can we prepare our children for the world of gaming, rather than shield them?

This article is not about the pros or cons of video games or which types of games are better. Each of us, as a parent has to continue to do that research. I’m offering MAPPS  as a frame for Generative, Growthful and Glowing Relationships. Use MAPPS to create useful and engaging conversations with your children.

MAPPS stands for Mix it up; Actively seed and feed; Play; Promote reflections; Scintillate.

1. Mix it up: Parenting is not only about disciplining. I know you already know this. But often, the first thing that happens when our child steps “out of bounds” with our values or principles is that we focus on discipline. Instead, play with the boundaries. Engage your child and learn what they are focusing on when they are on the edge of what is considered “acceptable”. The first time my son shot a bow and arrow at a humanoid character in an online game called Mine Craft, my hackles went up. No shooting humans in video games! That is my core value. My husband let him play a few more moments and then told him to stop. Then we talked about what that was like. Our son, a 7-year-old said, “it didn’t feel good.” And we had an opening to talk further…just 2-3 minutes, but the seed was planted.

2. Actively seed and feed: Be a gardener of conversations. Actively plant the seeds, nurture and grow these conversations within your family. Our relationships are gardens which hold all kinds of conversations. And you are not the only gardener. Look for the seeds your child is planting and the conversations he or she is attempting to grow. Nurture the act of seeding even if it is a plant you don’t necessarily like. It is important for children to develop their own voice. In conversations they are playing with the ideas that will someday make up their core values. And it is in this interchange that they are most receptive to learning and growing. Keep your eye on the whole landscape as well as the individual “plants” that make up these conversational gardens.

3. Play: Play video games with your kids. Play some video games by yourself. Learn about your multiple roles that emerge when you are playing video games with your kids. Sometimes you are a character, sometimes a team member, sometimes a disciplinarian and sometimes you will play many roles at once. Learn about your child’s world, the world of play. Online games are one small part of that world. Rediscover play for yourself. Join in! Be in the space of play, not just in the space of discipline or rule making. Because it is in these bridging spaces where we grow our bonds and relationships.

4. Promote reflection:Kids in their own age-appropriate way are making meaning. Reflection is a social activity by which, in talk, thought and action, we make sense of the world around us. Don’t just point out things. Ask your child what their thoughts and feelings are when they build a lava pit, discover a secret pathway in a game or shoot down a cow or bird. Ask these questions across all types of games, not just violent games (but definitely use them with such games).

If you limit such engagement only to violent games, you risk elevating them to a different category, (and yes they are already in a different category), but the trick is to do the both/and. To hold the idea that such games are simply one among many games even as you view it as different value category that needs special attention. Because how you engage promotes the frame by which the child will respond. Create an ongoing dialogue about your child’s experience of life, the whole big enchilada. Share your ethical values but also listen. Because in the act of listening you are teaching them how to construct ethical values of their own. You are helping them to develop their abilities to reflect and judge what is right and wrong contextually.

5. Scintillate: Be alive! Present energy to your children. Bring out your inner child and enjoy! Children can relate when they see you having fun. They know the language of pleasure and fun. And in play and fun we are actively sharing ideas about how to live while growing the bonds that make families stronger.

By the end of this list you are probably wondering, ‘this is not just about online games, is it?’. You got it! Parenting about online-games is not about online games, and it shouldn’t be. Isolating an issue and centering our focus on it, is the very way we grow that which we don’t want to encourage. Isolating the issue at hand often creates a disconnected way of parenting where we lose sight of the bigger picture, ie: the relationship with our child and our other family relationships. Rather than focusing on some amorphous end result, such as, not having a violent child, lets attend to what builds a positive relationship. This will create an invaluable source the child draws on to face a challenging and uncertain life. Release control of the result and adopt a stance of being resourced for the unknown.

To learn more contact me for coaching.

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