Last night I caught an UberX taxi and had an interesting conversation with the driver.
1. Coping with a high-pressure, hyper-education-focused school system
The driver was a a concerned parent of a teenage boy, about to sit his high school exams this year. In Singapore, this is considered “the most important exam of your life.” He was worried that his son’s online smartphone gaming was affecting his ability to study. The boy’s teacher said that he is capable of doing much better if he “worked harder.” Last year, the father sold his son’s powerful gaming PC because he “had enough.” More recently, he sat everyone in the family down for a family meeting regarding his concern. In this discussion, his son reported “But gaming helps me to relax.” This is a very common scenario for families in Singapore.
2. Taking action, parenting and managing your child’s gaming
I applauded the driver for 2 reasons. Firstly, he was so concerned he did something about his son’s gaming. The father took action. He sold the powerful gaming PC*. Secondly, he sat the family down and had a discussion and communicated his concern with his children.
3. Developing a repertoire of coping strategies to break a vicious cycle
I confirmed with the driver that many teens with stress share his son’s coping strategy of gaming. Gaming is a very effective way for young people to regulate negative emotions such as anger and frustration. In this case, stress associated with the pressure of “the most important exam of your life.” However, this is a short term effect and long-term use can lead to avoidance of the negative feelings, a vicious cycle of inflaming the problem and more frequent gaming (Kuss, Griffiths 2012). My advice to the driver was to help his son develop other ways to deal with the pressure of exams, “Strategy A, Strategy B and Strategy C.” I also recommended that he could talk with his son’s school counselor and that there is good local Singaporean “Cyber wellness” service. This service might be able to help his son better manage his stress and gaming time in a non-judgmental way.
*Selling his son’s powerful gaming PC may seem like an extreme measure and it appears that his son retreated into his smartphone as a result. However, I see too often permissive parents who struggle to manage their child’s use. They set rules, but do not stay firm, thus the child ends up having complete control of the device. So when he told me this, I was quite surprised, even thought that this was a very bold and brave action to take. What do other parents think about this?
Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Online gaming addiction in children and adolescents: A review of empirical research. Journal of Behavioral Addictions,1(1), 3-22.