Parents tend to worry that their children spend too much time on online gaming and the Internet. An NIE researcher cum online-gaming enthusiast tells us that the online world is not all bad.
The world of online gaming and new media has always intrigued researcher and Associate Professor Angeline Khoo. To her, the online world can help develop certain life skills in individuals, but only if they are used correctly and in moderation. We talk to Angeline about her views on online gaming and how parents can better understand their children’s involvement in this form of new media.
Q: How did you becoming involved in online gaming?
I was involved in a gaming project which I enjoyed very much. I realized that to be authentic, I had to be a gamer myself, and help parents who do not understand online gaming actually understand their children better.
My gaming experiences are rather outdated now, but what I have learned about the virtual environment still has relevance for those parents who are rarely in the online world.
I think one of the reasons why I found this project so meaningful was because we could help foster better communication between parents and their children. The lack of understanding regarding the nature of online gaming can cause them to drift further apart. Parents are afraid of their children becoming addicted and try to remedy the situation but imposing restrictions but in doing so, they can make things worse. And this can be quite heart-wrenching.
Many parents didn’t know that they have to understand their kids’ attraction to games first – what motivates them to keep on playing, what benefits they derive and what challenges they face.
Q: What is it that parents need to understand?
We find parents lagging way behind in terms of their experience and understanding of these issues but that’s not surprising. The gap is even wider now because of new technology. Some parents may be on social media but they may not understand how children are using it.
Take for example the definition of privacy. You ask teenagers if they believe in privacy and they’ll say yes, they do believe in privacy of information. But when you ask them for the definition of privacy, it’s different from what the adults think. For adults, it means not sharing information with strangers. For teens, it means you don’t share information with your parents!
Q: What can teachers and parents do in this kind of situation?
Teachers and parents need better understanding of the online world in order to communicate with children, and with each other.
Some counsellors we interviewed found that generally, parents are not sure what to do about the gaming habits of their children.
For example, a father may believe that switching off the computer would solve the problem of excessive gaming, so he may say, “I’ve given you sufficient warning. If you’re still online after I count to 3, I’ll just pull out the plug!” So he pulls the plug while his son is in the middle of a game, or having a discussion with his friends. Of course, the boy will get very angry. In fact, some children may react violently. It’s not that they don’t respect their parents. They do, but at that moment, it’s an impulsive response.
I think what teachers can do is to help parents understand these issues. And of course teachers must understand these issues themselves if they are to be a bridge between children and their parents.
I think one of the reasons why I found this project so meaningful was because we could help foster better communication between parents and their children.
– Angeline Khoo, Psychological Studies Academic Group
Q: What kind of advice can you give to teachers and parents whose students and children are addicted to online gaming?
Parents shouldn’t try to stop their children from playing games. They must understand what motivates gamers, and what needs are being met through playing these games. I’m motivated to play because I have enjoyable experiences in the game. There’s a lot of social interaction, and I make new online friends. We may not meet face to face but the depth of our conversations show that such friendships are not inferior to real-life friendships. Only our avatars meet, but our avatars have taken on our identities. So if you think an avatar is just a pixelated character, you’re wrong!
Not many parents understand that and think games are bad and try to stop their children from playing. Of course kids will rebel because they cannot give up what they enjoy, like friendship, teamwork, and the thrill of defeating a challenging enemy. Yes, games fulfil their need for social relationships as well as sense of accomplishment. Adults can learn a lot from games too. They can put into practice their leadership, conflict-management and problem-solving skills.
Parents need to understand what the game means to their children and teachers can play a role in communicating this to parents. Help the kids exercise self-control. The key word is self-regulation. If you impose too many rules, they are all very external controls. The kids do not have ownership of the problem and will find it harder to take responsibility for their own actions.
Parents need to understand what the game means to their children, and teachers can play a role in communicating this to parents.
– Angeline on the role of teachers
Help them exercise self-regulation, own the problem, and solve the issues themselves. This is not easy though. It takes a lot of time, patience and perseverance. Parents need to build rapport with their children because they will not want to listen to you if you do not have a warm relationship with them in the first place.
The first step is for the kids to acknowledge that they have compromised some aspects of their lives because of too much online gaming. And you must have enough empathy before the children will acknowledge that their gaming habits are having detrimental effects on them.
There needs to be a relationship that fosters negotiation and communication and this is possible only if there is an understanding and empathy. It’s all about parenting as every child is different. A lot depends on how much parents understand what works for their own kids.