“A butterfly lives in transformation – Her final one is only a small manifestation of the true beauty of life.” (Maria Lehtman)
Did you know that your digital identity has been building up for several decades before you ever realized it was there? For many of us our digital identity is living a life of its own and we are just waiting for the outcome. We can only partially control our virtual destiny. The Internet is filled with posts how parents should be more vigilant about children growing up with constant online gaming (Global Games Market is a $99.6Bn industry year 2016, +8.5% YoY). It is getting more difficult to understand where the virtual line should be drawn. What can we do about it?
Creating our identities. A much more relevant question than where the digital development will lead us is to focus on developing our own identities. I recently saw an article about Glow Kids, screen-addicted children glued to their screens hours on end, finally incapable of grasping the joy of actual life around them. It is important to understand how online gaming affects children, especially at a young age. It is equally important to understand who your child is, and what role do we have as adults in the accelerating digital evolution. We should not forget that the behaviors we manifest, both positive and negative, reflect on our children. If we constantly sit in front of our laptops, tablets, and mobiles we cannot expect our children to grow up much differently.
Learning from our past – A walk down memory lane. How did a gaming fan of the 80’s survive childhood digitalization? (And yes, girl-gamers existed even back then :). It was a balancing act to keep my interests between virtual and non-virtual hobbies. Reflecting back to my childhood, I had three key areas helping me keep the gaming in balance:
- Balancing Act 1# having fun with outdoor hobbies, friends & pets: In the mid-80’s games were still rare amongst girls, but I was mesmerized from day one. I could sit hours playing e.g. Pac-Man Atari with my best friend, but eventually, we would close the game down to take the dog out for a walk. Having pets around made it easier to take our minds off from virtual gaming. We spent an equal amount of hours outdoors doing cross country skiing, playing badminton, fishing, swimming etc.
- Balancing Act 2# learning from books and languages: My mother did not appreciate the video and computer gaming, but she tolerated my enthusiasm for it. She also instinctively knew that doing anything for too many consecutive hours was not healthy for you. She would make me shut down the monitor after a few hours and give me books to read instead. I ended up reading all of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels and managed to brush up my vocabulary by reading books both in Finnish and English, occasionally also Swedish and German.
- Balancing Act 3# Diversifying virtual and non-virtual hobbies: computer (Commodore 64) and video gaming did not cater for mobility – they just did not sit well in your backpack. When the electronic games appeared it made mobile gaming easier, but they were not challenging enough to keep me going for very long. My mother decided to take me to a literature event developed after the esteemed Finnish author Väinö Linna (I must have been ca. 12-years old). She kept encouraging me to sing, play the piano and practice almost any fine art and sport I could come up with that did not take too much money.
Our Digital pace of life. Today a good example of combining gaming and outdoors activity is the much debated Pokémon Go-boom. However we feel about it, the game has prompted both children and their parents to go mobile outdoors together. It has also created communities children collaborating about their experiences.
When we accelerate digital learning quicker than the pace of life, we enter the virtual quick sands. We can also stumble on it if we disregard the signs of digital evolution and get out of pace. The virtual realities, whether social networking, gaming, entertainment or work-related activities, are vivid enough to alter subconscious activity. They live on whether we are awake or sleeping. We should stay as curious as our children about the virtual realities, but remember to develop a core creativity. Once we realize how to keep a consistent life balance we also experience both worlds more positively. Eventually, the realities become unified. We should never become too afraid of the evolution, but continue to live our lives fully at the present.