How to Choose and Use Video Games, Apps, and Social Media: A Guide for Clinicians

Clinicians can use a variety of methods to employ video games and other digital media in their therapeutic practice with children. Technology can be helpful in developing therapeutic relationships, preferably with fun and easy-to-play games such as Food Ninja or one of the many Angry Birds games. Therapists could also choose a technology such as YouTube to explore together with their clients, and the clients could talk to their therapists about their favorite YouTubers. Children would like demonstrating their interests to an adult, which might give you a few laughs together. Seeing their therapists enjoy this interaction could help them connect in therapy.

Many children could benefit from choosing a technology that works on improving a specific skill. For example, youngsters who have difficulty with impulsive behavior could gain from playing a game in which self-control is necessary. The therapist could play the game with the child or observe the child and make comments about the need for restraint in the game. There are many games in our search engine at LW4K that could be useful in this regard.

Therapists could also employ games that practice a variety of other skills such as organization, planning, and time management to work on with children in a therapy session. They could engage in “metacognitive” discussions in which children are encouraged to consider how game-based skills could be applied in real-world learning opportunities. Homework that goes along with the discussion that is focused on more game play is likely to be followed and could be useful in improving the skill. Engaging parents in the homework process would make therapy a fun experience in which skill development is clearly a part of the treatment and the homework. Check out our playbook for Minecraft.

Mastering a specific app could also be very useful in supporting a weak executive skill. For example, spending time learning how to use an app such as Evernote that improves organization could directly impact school performance. The therapist could discuss how this could be used to insure that homework is completed and that their extracurricular activities are prepared for and scheduled.

The LearningWorks for Kids Find Games and Apps page can help in  determining the best tool for any patient. To use it, choose games or apps, select a thinking/executive skill, and search. The search can be further refined with a variety of other features. We encourage you to explore the hundreds of games and apps playbooks that assist clinicians and parents in finding the best games and technologies to improve children’s executive-functioning skills.

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