It's easy to vilify games as distractions or time wasters, but it's not always a black and white debate.Gamifyingis the practice of adding a gaming element to an activity, and it can be quite effective. By adding stakes or points to otherwise tedious practices, you incentivize achievement. Gamificationcan be as simple as turning a lesson into a challenge or as complicated as rethinking your entire life.
Memorizing the rules of the road is necessary, but uninteresting to a teenager. Even though there's no real world benefit, there is a satisfaction to winning a game. So how can you marry the appeal of a game with something tedious or unappealing to get the result you want from your teen driver?
First, remember that you hold the power. Sure teens are headstrong and over-confident about their abilities, butyouhold the purse-strings. You own the car, maintain the insurance and provide the living quarters. Driving is a responsibility, so tie it in to everyday life if you think your teen will best respond to that. Or, make driving its own game.
Assign positive point values to desirable behaviors like:
- Coming to a complete stop in reverse before shifting into drive.
- Using turn signals and checking blind spots appropriately.
- Parallel parking successes.
- Stopping for yellow lights rather than speeding up.
Assign negative point values to problematic behaviors like:
- Even picking up a cell phone while operating a vehicle or texting and driving (make this a big deduction).
- Overly passive or overly aggressive passing and merging.
- Brake slamming.
- Rolling through stops.
Once you've established point values create standards, rewards and consequences. Are privileges suspended or limited at a certain level? Is curfew extended for a high score? Every family and every driver will be a little different but the underlying idea is the same. Constant feedback, both negative and positive, will let the driver know what they're doing right and what they can improve on. Driving is a serious responsibility in which, unlike games, you don't get unlimited lives.
Improving Basic Skills
Gamers have long asserted that they develop skills like increased hand-eye coordination and tactical thinking skills from games. It's been oft discussed and plenty of research has been done to back that up, though it's hard to know if encouraging your teen to spend more time playing Halo will noticeably impact driving performance.
World renowned game developer Jane McGonigal,PhD says "gameplay is extremely productive." She continues, in an op-ed piece contributed to The Guardian, "it does produce the positive emotions scientists say are crucial to our health and success." What does that mean for your teen driver? Well, McGonigal posits that " we are more likely to help someone in real life after we've helped them in a co-operative game." I don't know about you, but I'd rather drive next to a confident and cooperative driver, rather than an aggressive and selfish one. If a little extra (appropriate) gaming will lend itself to better driving and everyday behavior... well I say go for it.
Dont forget the rewards for winning the game. One reward could be a texting thumb band, wrist band or t shirt! Not only is it a reward, it's a great reminder NOT to text and drive! Find some great rewards in the Safety Store: