If your tween has been allowed to play action-adventure video games for a few hours at a time on a regular basis, you may have noticed a little residual defensiveness oozing beyond the boundaries of that arena.
As tweens begin to feel the insecurity of early adolescence, they are sensitive about receiving even subtle judgments from their peers. So they sit ‘on guard’ as they play these games. The game environment itself is typically all about protecting virtual ‘people,’ property, and places. Combining prepubescence and the gaming environment elicits a protective need to defend themselves.
It’s a self-preservation they may forget to turn off in the relative safety of their own interactions with their family. They may need your encouragement to “chill.”
– Notice if they speak with you or their siblings as if they are talking with impersonal avatars.
– Hearing too much bluster from them? Reminding them to approach their conversations with humility and self-control may become necessary. Help them practice civility to counter the virtual incivility that they often experience.
– Is their growing cynicism and sarcasm wearing you thin? Do you wish they would drop their tough exterior act? Let them know how much you appreciate when they act with sincerity, confidence and trust.
While these negative behaviors seem to be protective mechanisms in response to dealing with the online environment, they don’t translate very prettily to real life relationships.
What occurs is not a surprise, if you have paid some attention to your child’s play online. After all, you will have noticed that a simple online mistake can bring him the wrath of an entire Minecraft server community. To him there is a lot at stake. All the more reason to continue your efforts to draw him into diverse social contexts and interests that involve real human beings in bodily proximity.
Even if your child is an introvert, now is the age to help him gain practice and comfort level with others. Draw him toward relationships of acceptance and simple fun—ones in which he doesn’t feel so personally at risk. Allow him the visceral feeling of safety and security with a caring family and embodied friends with whom he can laugh and talk and find acceptance.
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