The stereotype of the digital age is a cold, isolated world, a place where people are separated by screens and social skills steadily devolve. But the reality is that there is much technology that can actually produce a sense of well-being and facilitate meaningful human interaction. Yes, video games can improve social emotional resilience and positive psychology.
Playing and mastering video games, connecting with others on social media, and creating videos for YouTube can all lead to improvement in social emotional learning and resilience and a sense of fulfillment. In the twenty-first century, technology has the potential to enrich the quality of people’s lives, not only as a tool for convenience and learning but also as a way to enrich psychological health.
Psychologists who study positive psychology have examined the qualities of living that lead to a sense of well-being. Martin Seligman, the “father” of positive psychology, describes the five elements of well-being as achievement of a sense of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. The path to a sense of well-being involves a set of actions and skills and a way of thinking about life and one’s experiences. Well-being is not accidental but requires work and awareness via experiences that lead to personal growth. Physical health, supportive family and friends, peer and adult modeling, and good fortune can also be important.
Given the proliferation of screens and time spent with media, finding ways to transform technology engagement to improve the elements of positive psychology in children and adults should be a serious goal of game developers and educators. Psychologists are beginning to ask whether technology use such as video-game play, engagement with social media, and creative technological opportunities can improve an individual’s sense of well-being and enhance mindsets and skills that promote a sense of positive psychology.
These mindsets and skills include:
Resilience: Behaviors or actions that are positive adaptations to stress, adversity, and risk. Nurturing skills to buffer against weaknesses in the storms of life .
Gratitude: Expressions of gratefulness. Behavior that reflects appreciation, grace, and thankfulness.
Purpose: The ability to find meaning outside oneself. Researchers have found that happiness can be gained through the expression of empathy and altruism and by purposefully doing good.
Cognitive Reframing: Being able to take a problem or difficult situation and adjust and solve problems.
Connectedness: Close social connections that help people feel safe, supported,and grounded in their lives with others.
Self-Assessment: Accurately identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses.
Control: A sense of control develops when one feels capable of striving for and achieving success.
While the language may vary, many companies and organizations are exploring how technologies can prompt and encourage the development of these skills and mindsets. Video games for kids such as IF…, organizations such as Games for Change and iThrive Games, and companies such as Ripple Effects are creating tools to improve resilience, skills in social emotional learning, and a sense of well-being.
At LearningWorks for Kids, our approach is always to start with the popular games and technologies that kids are already using and see how they can be transformed into teaching tools, opportunities to practice a skill, and supports for competency. We write quite a bit about how video games and technology can improve social emotional skills. Read more: