Our concern over our student’s fascination with video gaming and social media is warranted. It can be argued that technology has contributed to a reduction in communication and social skills with peers and adults. And for many children, it seems to consume their minds even when they are not directly playing. Parents are criticized for allowing children to spend too much time gaming: we’ve all seen families seated in a restaurant with children on devices (adults too!) and shook our SLP heads over lost communication opportunities.
However, technology, video gaming and social media are firmly woven into the cultural fabric of our student’s generation. As therapists and adults, guiding our students towards technology that can facilitate social engagement is critical.
I recently came across a new free mobile app called Miitomo and am using it in therapy sessions with my middle and high school students. Students will need their phone during the set-up phase making prior communication with parent’s and school administration essential. When all “permission bases” have been covered, I recommend distributing and collecting devices before and after the session as well as closely monitoring activity throughout.
Miitomo was developed by Nintendo, a name every student recognizes. Most own several Nintendo products and their characters are superstars (think Mario, Luigi and Pokemon). Miitomo lets you communicate with friends via a character called a Mii. Students appreciate that the Mii is clearly a Nintendo character. I appreciate that students can customize their tiny avatar not only in appearance but in personality (including voice characteristics). I let students develop their Miis as a group, discussing personality traits. This provides an opportunity to be seen from another’s perspective, often with unexpected point-of-view. Here’s my Mii based on input from my students.
After developing their Miis, students add friends. This can be done from other social media sources (Facebook & Twitter) OR when someone is in the immediate vicinity with their app open. I found this to be the easiest method.
Outside of the session, students have a goal: to gain more information about their Miitomo friends. The Mii asks you questions; your response will be shared with Miitomo friends who can comment on your answers. Answering questions and “listening” to friend’s responses earns Miitomo coins that can be traded in for game time or Mii customization. (There are no additional charges or in-app purchases.)
During our sessions, our group shares and discusses the information they gathered about each other. This has been a terrific way to create “friend files” and practice conversation skills. So far, parents have provided positive feedback, especially because they see their child developing interests in other people as well as “social wonder”. I’ve actually gained credibility among my students, who think it’s “cool” I knew about this app. Staying relevant is always a plus when working with older students!
Here’s a link to the Nintendo trailer:
Do you use gaming or social media in your sessions to target social skills?