Concern and debate over video game addiction.

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 4.35.09 PM

Gaming is a big concern for a lot of parents and teachers, but it doesn’t have to be. Gaming can foster critical thinking skills, collaboration, and can also be an excellent stress buster. The video game industry has a very bright future with a lot of job opportunities, and gamers are being used more and more in the field of science research.

Of course, like most of our other tech distractions, it can become an issue if it’s not used in moderation.

What is moderation when it comes to gaming? Well, there’s a lot of debate on that, and it really comes down to the individual child. Watch for signs that it’s interfering with other parts of their lives or if they get agitated (not just normal kid agitated, but a more extreme version) if you try and monitor it. If you’re really concerned, check the indicators coming out from the new DSM.

Again… don’t jump to conclusions if a 12 year-old boy is playing an hour or so of Minecraft after he’s done with his homework. But if you’ve got a middle school or high school student who keeps nodding off in class, you might want to check for the signs. Chances are if you get the conversation going, you’ll find out soon enough who’s struggling.

Remind the kids that there’s a reason that most of those MMORPG games (World of Warcraft, League of Legends, etc.) are rated 13 and over.

We’re not talking about Mario Cart here.

These games are unbeatable, designed to be infinitely entertaining, and updates roll out about once every two months. With their still developing pre-frontal cortexes, most teenagers are simply not capable of pulling away once they get hooked (Which is why most of those games will offer a free trial before they ask you to pay with a credit card).

Here’s a great series from CNN that takes a balanced look at video game addiction and can be a great starting point for a debate with a high school or middle school class.

Don’t be reactionary. This isn’t a “Just Say No” issue like alcohol or drugs. Show the video, get the discussion going, and make sure you stay open to their opinions. If they feel like you appreciate the positive sides of gaming, they’re much more likely to let you know if it’s becoming an issue for them or any of their friends.


What is Technology Balance?

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 7.50.45 AM

In a 2011 study done by the McCann World Group, 53% of 16-22 year-olds said they would rather give up their sense of smell than their favorite technology.

When this first came out and I presented it to my 8th grade Health class, way back in 2011, their reactions were all pretty much the same.

Those teenagers have lost their freaking minds.

But in this year’s class?  Not so much.

Sense of smell… I can live without that.

But technology? How would I get my work done? Get into college? Build and sustain relationships? Have any idea what was going on in the outside world?

My knee-jerk reaction was to steer them back to sanity, but when they turned the question back on me, I actually had to agree.

I don’t think the Amish will be hiring a middle school health teacher anytime soon, and I doubt I’d last more than a week or two on a commune. My colleagues here would get pretty upset if I stopped reading my emails, and let’s not even get into (at least not with my 8th graders) the impact it would have on my social life.

If being cut off from the Internet stirs up feelings of anxiety and disconnect- even for me, a digital immigrant- I can’t imagine how restless my little natives would be without it. (Those of you who have kids of your own don’t have to imagine—I’m sure you’ve seen it first hand.)

In a landmark case this past January, the German high court declared access to the Internet a basic human right, and the latest research from the Pew Center tells us that 95% of American teenagers are on the Internet (for our students, you can safely swap that to100).

So, if the Internet is becoming a basic human need, how should we as educators be adapting our curriculum to help the kids navigate and balance their digital lives?

In the same way we approach nutrition.

Technology balance isn’t black and white, and it’s not about specific numbers or percentages. It varies from child to child, and different approaches work for different kids. A huge part of growing up is discovering how to make those choices on your own… with some missteps, and a whole lot of guidance, along the way.