It is not easy to for kids to put away their screens to do something less stimulating. Transitioning from video games, social media, or other screen time to do homework can be a nightmare in some homes, while transitioning from screen time to desirable activities such as dinner or soccer practice is not always without arguments and delays. Why is transitioning from video games so difficult for many children?
Most of the time, difficulty with transition has its basis in the lure of the technology. This does not mean that your kids should not listen to you, but that in attempting to get your children to transition, you are fighting a powerful enemy and may need to help them with this. Game and technology publishers recognize a variety of methods (or secrets) to keep users on their screens that have the impact of making it difficult to transition to another activity. According to Adam Alter in his great book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked, these hooks include:
Creating small but achievable goals that inspire ongoing action. As Alter describes in his book, taking the first step often inspires the second.
Getting immediate feedback – something happens when you act. Even negative immediate feedback helps to guide future behavior.
Making observable progress regardless of your knowledge so that you want to do more. This is why there is such great potential for game-based learning. Recognizing that one is getting better reduces frustration and provides the impetus for ongoing effort and attention.
Escalation and challenge. As players get better at a game, they are able to take on more difficult tasks and experience a sense of building or improvement.
Uncertainty and cliffhangers. Consider how many Netflix series almost compel viewers to watch the next episode to see what is going to happen. This is very different from television series in the past, where one needed to wait until the following week to see the show. In a similar vein, kids don’t want to miss out on what is happening “right now” in their social media feeds (sometimes referred to as FOMO) for fear of missing out.
Making it social. Sharing, comparing, and being liked by others. Social media helps others to recognize you, shows what you are doing, and allows get positive feedback (likes, regrams, and comments). We all are drawn to positive feedback and often work hard to seek it.
Given the power of technology to hook your children (and you), transitioning from video games and social media is a tough battle for parents. So rather than think you can change the built-in secrets of addictive technology, consider some methods that use game publisher’s strategies in your efforts to improve your child’s transitioning from video games to other activities.
Here are five parenting secrets for transitioning from video games:
1. Make it social. Practice transitions when their friends are there. This way they either receive praise in a social setting or might be embarrassed to act out. Their friends might encourage them to transition readily.
2. Start with more achievable, small transitions. Practice transitions in other areas that are easy for children. Provide direct and immediate praise. Pay attention to what works and help them be proud of the transitions they are making.
3. Make it a challenge or a competition. Have children earn points or rewards when they can transition quickly. Have charts that pair them in competition with siblings or with their previous performance.
4. Make the next activity as interesting as possible. Use FOMO to make transitioning quickly motivating for children who have a fear of missing out.
5. Always provide feedback and praise for progress and effort. Use tools for feedback such as a timer on the desk or even a piece of paper that has the time to stop taped to where the child is playing. Randomly (just as happens in many addictive games) give an extra 15 to 30 minutes of game time oater in the day because of good transitions.
Transitions may be even more difficult for children diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities, Executive-Functioning Problems, Anxiety, or Depression, and working with a child therapist may be useful. To learn more about helping your child transition from game and screen-time play to other activities, check out our other articles in this series.