The family that plays together…

It was as we were walking home from school that I heard Helen giving Nadia tips about how to play their new iPad game. “Don’t always give them what they want. They’re asking for things that are going to cost real money.”

playingtogetherThe conversation continued on the way home and then they both took out Helen’s iPad and started playing together. It was classic mother-daughter interaction: mom giving advice to the child, child listening and obeying dutifully. But there were no arguments, no defiance, just willing compliance.

From a parenting point of view, it was clear to see why this worked. The adult had information that would help the child in something the child was trying to do. The adult demonstrated experience and knowledge, and the child wanted to have the same. It was a classic case of teaching from experience. Often, our teens rebel against us because of their perception that the adult doesn’t know or understand what the child is going through. It also comes across as preaching rather than saying, “Let me help you accomplish what you want to do.”

From a technology and Digital Citizenship perspective, this was a great example of learning and exploring together. Helen wasn’t just teaching Nadia how to play the game and win, she was teaching her how to avoid costly in-app purchases. These are a hot topic in technology stories about kids and tablets. There have been cases of huge class-action suits against app makers when parents find that their children have spent thousands of real dollars in buying magic potions and level-ups and so forth in video games.

In this case, the child was being taught how to avoid those costly purchases – and in the language of the game. “You don’t need those right now.” “You can get those a different way.” “All you have to do is wait a bit – put the iPad down and go do something else for a bit and when you get back you’ll have it for free.”

Now, Nadia is old enough to understand the difference between real money and in-app currencies. (Part of that is because we’ve been teaching her over the years with allowances, shopping lessons, etc.) But even younger children can understand that if they are taught.

If parents want their children to be responsible with money and in-app purchases, they should join in the gaming and learn how the programs work and how to avoid unnecessary costs. But, more than that: parents should join in the gaming so they share an experience with their children. By being a part of the experience, by showing an interest, even by having more knowledge, parents earn the respect of their children and what might become a source of resentment or disagreement becomes a shared experience that can be enjoyed together and managed better.

The family that plays together stays together.


Cross-posted from my school blog.

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