In this article I will address the concerns we all need to be aware of when using the internet and why it is important to help children become educated in the strategies used to capture their attention and sway their opinions and future purchases.
A Game of Solitaire- Innocent? Maybe Not!
One would think that an online game of Solitaire would be a nice way to pass some time. In working with an 8 year old, I made several interesting discoveries about the positive and negatives of online Solitaire.
The benefits were that the player can undo a move and see which would be the best move to made. This requires the same concentration as the Match Game. The player must remember what is under the stack of cards for future plays. The game can also be undone for several moves once the player knows what is under other stacks. This involves the strategy skill.
The negatives lie in the options available to the player and the ads that are quickly flashed on the screen after each game is completed, and in some cases, as the play is happening.
These games are advertised as FREE.
The truth about FREE games. They aren’t free at all. Advertisers have become very knowledgeable of the principles of neuroscience. They know how the brain takes in information at a subconscious level and what it takes to create addictive behaviors.
Using the automatic feature of the game, speeds up play and results in the player not even being conscious of what they are doing. The goal of the 8 year old was to win. He would click on stacks, and if there was a move available, the game would make it for him. He couldn’t remember the move and which cards were used, but he won the game. What followed were ads for products targeting adults. He could remember some of the ads, but he couldn’t remember the plays he made. This s exactly the reason they are FREE. Subliminally, the game is steering game uses to their products.
The nature of games that have the auto click feature results in speeding up the brain and what follows are children who become agitated after playing. As my student continued playing and the clicking became faster, I had him stop and recognize what had just happened. I asked if he could remember the move he made and he couldn’t. I asked him to put his hand on his heart and feel it beating. He could tell it was beating faster than when we started playing the game. He was asked to stop and check his heart rate after several plays to make sure he wasn’t becoming charged up. The developers motives are to accelerate the heart speed and the dopamine releases to keep the gamer engaged for as long as possible. The more games played, the more ads are flashed, and the more money the developer earns.
Because the games created symptoms in children that manifest as ADD, I have seen a huge presence of drug commercials on FREE game sites and ads for medication for ADD and Depression symptoms. These companies know that the games are creating the symptoms and the ads are drawing attention to the symptoms that look like ADD when the user is not ADD.
Have your children watch television with you and pay attention to the drug ads that are strategically placed. This is why drugs for depression seem to follow sad movies and nightly news that promotes negativity and reports on items that insight fear. After the most intense time in our history, drug companies are promoting drugs for symptoms that usually present after people experience long periods of intense stress, fear, and anxiety. This was caused by the media, and it proves to be a perfect place to suggest one might be exhibiting ADD symptoms. Bringing attention to these strategies and discussing them with your children will prepare them for a world of advertising that is more subtle and conniving than in the past.
Awareness is the key when using the internet are any other form of media. It is more effective on the internet because the symbols and words can be flashed so fast, one will not even be aware that they are being influenced.
BACK UP 30+ Years When the Negative Impact of Video Games Began
Studying the impact of technology on children has been a disturbing thing for me. I was first exposed to the literal destruction of a wonderful academic life of students back in the mid 1980’s. That was when the technology had to be plugged into the wall socket for power. It’s hard to conceive the negative impact now that the devices can be held in a hand and carried everywhere. Let’s look at the progression of the destruction beginning in the 1980’s.
In the 1980’s, before video games were created, children played outside. Cardboard boxes would keep even teens occupied for hours. I watched four teenagers spend 8 hours with nothing more than a refrigerator box. Their play concluded with trips down the stairs using one of the sides they had cut out to create a puppet stage.
In the late 1980’s, Nintendo created video games. Children began to play and would play for hours if not stopped. At first the games appeared to be harmless and to the unsuspecting parent, they appeared to teach tenacity and problem solving as children tried to reach the next level in Mario Brothers and Tetris. We weren’t aware of the negative impact of the dopamine addiction cycle created by the games at that time.
In the late 1990’s, the games became more sophisticated and the rewards grew more attractive to the players. The dopamine releases provided by the game were so subtle that they player had no real idea why they couldn’t bring themselves to stop playing. It was during this time that I began getting calls from parents of college aged children who were flunking out of college. Some lost valuable academic scholarships, because they failed to show up to class. One mother shared that her son’s counselor found him in his room surrounded by water bottles filled with urine. Her son had become so addicted to a game she once controlled at home that he would not leave the dorm room to use the restroom.
Since the first phone calls in the late 1990’s, I have helped hundreds of students identify how the devices are controlling them and how they can gain control of the device.
How Can Parents Prepare Their Children for Mindful Use of Devices?
The devices continue to operate faster every year. They offer us all great advantages, but if we are not fully aware of how those who only wish to gain financially from it operate, we are easy targets. It is not too early to examine exactly how these newest games and applications gain control and how to teach our children to recognize when that is happening and what the user can do to gain back control.
- Play games with your children. Have them notice how calm they feel.
- Allow them to play until you see them just clicking mindlessly. Stop them and ask them what they notice. They will have a variety of descriptions that all related to dopamine releases. They will feel anxious or stressed. Point out that this is the motive of the game maker.
- Point out the ads that are popping up. Some children will say, “I don’t click on them.” Point out that simply seeing in for milliseconds registers in their subconscious brain. The advertisers know that that some amount of time can influence future purchases. Suggest they pay attention the next time they go to the store and have an urge to buy something. I could have been something that was flashed on the screen when they weren’t consciously aware.
- Recognizing when one is hooked in a dopamine loop is powerful. Awareness if 100% of the solution. I had to get cards in the mail today and I got hooked in the Facebook Hook. I have learned to set a timer of 10 minutes when I plan on looking at Facebook. This helps me stop the loop that makes it easy to go down a rabbit hole. Suggest the users set times and have them close the screen when it goes off. They will notice how it creates anxiety. Have them take deep breaths until their heart rate calms down and direct them to learn to put in a case for later use.
- Study advertisements and point out how the advertisers are created fear and then offering solutions. They will become savvy consumers while protecting themselves from internet fraud.
- Read my book on 10 Digital Dangers for more solutions.