In a similarly named post, I mentioned the repetitive, intangible rewards children “earn” through playing video games. Their desire for positive feedback and rewards becomes incited to the point of obsession. What if, instead, they became more interested in gaining positive feedback from following God and engaging with the people God made for that purpose?
It is not too early to nudge your child toward pleasing God through loving and serving people and not toward serving a virtual technological scorekeeper. After all, Ephesians 5:30 reminds us that “we are members of his body.” We will want to train our children to act like it.
Offering Positive Feedback Examples of the Human Variety
Think about the amount of time in a week your child interacts with technology versus with you (or others). If human contact is inadequate, they may become more accustomed to satisfying their gadget’s commands and goals. They may be less inclined to serve their parents and other people for God’s purposes. Consider if, in your child, positive feedback garnered from technology diminishes their desire for positive feedback from family and friends. The people around them may become more unnecessary than people are supposed to be.
You can offer positive feedback of the tangible human variety. You can be a source that satisfies their innate need for attention and affirmation. Hopefully you are a better source than their computer. By some statistics, 70% of parents believe video games can be a positive influence in their kids’ lives (www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/EF2018_FINAL.pdf). Yet still, as a parent you want to be a key source. Verbally reward them with positive feedback for what they do well (“the patio you swept looks great!”). Reward them with your time for attending to their church or school obligations (“do you want to throw a football?…learn how to make those cupcakes you love?”). They may just learn to appreciate your recognition so much that they work harder to earn it. This may result in less time for excessive video game play. Think about positive feedback examples that make sense in your own family life.
Positive Rewards Outside of Video Games
Human connection–particularly our connection to our kids and their connection with us–is vital to serving God. And although games offer “…a comforting mix of structure, repetition, challenge, and adventure,” according to Digital Divide: Real Christianity in a Digital World” (p. 44, 2011, Abingdon Press), developing sustaining human connections is vital. Can you help your child find a “comforting mix of structure, repetition, challenge and adventure” in their “real” life outside of video games? For example:
- structure a weekly play date with a family that is in your bubble or let him attend a masked youth group event
- play his favorite board game or make her favorite snack together and repeat regularly
- introduce a new skill to learn (this is more easily done with external activities more limited)
- explore your community for adventure–fewer crowds may mean more opportunities to get out safely.
These ideas would result in less open time to fill with an impersonal technical life. In 1 Corinthians Paul mentioned coming “in love and with a gentle spirit.” We would be serving our children well to come alongside their technical inclinations in the same manner. To offer them positive feedback and rewards that only parents and a close knit community can give.
The related, earlier post is Pressing the Reward Button.
First published 8/5/2012. Updated 11/18/2020.