My son is a “nerdy kid.” He has a high IQ, has been diagnosed with ADHD, doesn’t play sports, and doesn’t even like going outside. Though he has a social life, playdates with friends consist of hours of video game play. I just don’t think that’s healthy. What do I do?
I am a big believer in what I call a healthy Play Diet — a balance between social, creative, active, free, and yes, even digital play activities. But everyone is different. Some kids want to play sports five hours a day or are highly motivated to do chores and paying jobs and could care less about screen time, yet those very kids might benefit from improving their digital literacy or being creative. All kids are unique and we need to recognize that.
When parents describe their child as nerdy it makes me think that the child may have some discomfort in social relationships and as a result is drawn to technology. If this is the case, I wouldn’t suggest being overly restrictive with your son’s interest in technology. Video game play is often a social activity, whether it’s “couch co-op” or massively multiplayer online, and this is precisely what you’ve observed.
That being said, five hours a day of straight up Minecraft is simply too much. After an hour or two, there’s very little that he will get out of it. With some work, however, you can find ways to relate this interest to other forms of play. You can try gamifying outdoor activities or chores with apps like ChoreMonster or SuperBetter or introduce him to coding or video editing. I strongly encourage you to help him play and use technology in an innovative and alternative fashion.
Here are a few ideas to expand beyond Minecraft:
- Set up his own Minecraft server, learning coding in order to make Minecraft mods, or making his own Minecraft videos to teach others how to play will provide him with different skills and opportunities.
- Find other games and activities. If he’s like most kids, he will outgrow Minecraft and then find other things that engage his interest. Your role is to facilitate that by getting him involved in extracurricular computer classes, introducing him to some of the cool coding programs available online, or encouraging him to create his own website.
- Bring games to the table. Playing traditional board games has come to be called “tabletop gaming,” and it’s a great way to get your son thinking outside the box. You might be wondering how to convince him that Monopoly is a good time, but we suggest something that’s more his style. There are many board and card games that are cool and interesting enough to hook kids and get them to involve their friends, including a few based on video games. Minecraft card game anyone?
- Make technology into a physical activity. To get him away from the computer and actually moving, try appealing to his love of technology by getting him a Fitbit or other fitness band that will prompt him to get moving and track his progress.
But if none of these work right away, it’s not necessarily cause to worry. His gameplay isn’t isolating him, and in this age of technology it is often the case that nerdy kids become cool and successful adults.
Featured image: Flickr user Michael Bentley