Habits for Teen Thriving
Feeling what others feel, imagining how they view and think about situations, and using that knowledge to guide your actions.
Science of Empathy
Babies come into the world with the wiring to be empathic.
As our brains develop with age, we become more capable of understanding other perspectives.
Empathy can bring up strong feelings that may need to be managed. Empathy for a single person can blind us to the plight of a larger group or bias us towards people who are like us. Some argue that a sense of justice for all is more important than feeling what others feel.
Empathy is a building block of compassion and altruism, but it’s not the same thing. Some people believe empathy is just about feeling and thinking, not about being motivated to help. Others argue that wanting to do something with empathy is a key part of what makes it powerful.
Empathy & the teen brain
Teen brains are changing in ways that make them especially interested in their social surroundings and how the world works.
Teen brains are still developing in areas related to perspective-taking.
Some teens become too distressed or consumed by others’ feelings and need to learn self-awareness and self-care instead of greater empathy.
Some research suggests that puberty corresponds with a temporary decrease in males’ (but not females’) ability to empathize with the feelings of others. Teen boys may especially benefit from meaningful experiences that develop empathy.
How can games support the development of empathy?
In games, teens may get the chance to act from different points of view.
In games, teens may learn to see others’ perspectives as valuable currency.
In games, teens may expand empathy by inhabiting difficult circumstances.
In games, teens may explore empathy by making choices that impact others.
In games like Never Alone, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Stacking, teens can switch from one character to another. This lets them see the same world through many eyes. They might viscerally explore and appreciate each character’s unique perspectives and ability to move the action forward.
ADVANTAGES FOR TEENS WHO PRACTICE EMPATHY:
Better Social Problem Solving
More Helpful To Others
Better Relationship With Friends & Partners
Want to Know More?
iThrive Games blog posts:Video Games Can Boost Empathy
External resources:Article: Polygon: Here’s Why the UN Is Getting Interested in Video Games Article: Greater Good Science Center: Gaming for Good
Seeking out new knowledge and experiences for their own sake, embracing uncertainty.
Science of Curiosity
Curiosity activates the regions of the brain related to pleasure and reward.
When we are curious, we pay closer attention, think about information more deeply, and remember it better.
Putting effort into understanding new things helps our brains build more and stronger connections, creating larger networks of knowledge and laying the foundation for mastery and wisdom.
Curiosity gives us a dose of that feel-good dopamine, making it a reward in itself.
Curiosity & the teen brain
Teen brains are especially sensitive to rewards.
Teens are driven to take risks that broaden their understanding of the world and their ability to navigate it independently.
Teens need self-directed opportunities to express their curiosity and explore to their imagination’s content within safe boundaries.
Teens are exploring and experimenting with their identity, and games are one safe place to do this.
How can games support the development of curiosity?
In games, teens may experiment with many social roles, interactions, and identities.
In games, teens may explore the far reaches of the “real world” or discover the secrets of fantasy worlds.
In games, teens may experiment to create new and amazing things.
In games, teens may solve mysteries and navigate worlds with surprising rules and laws, encouraging them to learn and adapt.
Nancy Drew series: A series of point-and-click mystery adventure games. Players interview characters and search for clues to solve the mystery at hand. Bonus: Depending on which game from the series players choose, they might learn about topics like physics and electricity or become more familiar with other cultures as they play.
ADVANTAGES FOR TEENS WHO PRACTICE CURIOSITY:
More Satisfied With Life
Have a Greater Sense of Purpose
Experience More Positive Emotions
Want To Know More?
iThrive Games blog posts:Curiosity Takes Us to “The Mun” and Beyond Video Games: A Safe Place to Wonder
External resources:Article: BBC Future: Why Are We So Curious? Article: Greater Good Science Center: Wired to Wonder
Believing that skills and knowledge can improve as a result of hard work, using different strategies, and actively seeking feedback and help from others.
Science of Growth Mindset
Practicing growth mindset actually changes behavior and improves performance.
Like muscles, our brains grow when they are challenged—they form new and stronger connections between neurons.
It is normal to have a mix of growth and fixed mindsets in different areas of life.
Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains are capable of change at any age. Otherwise we couldn’t learn anything new.
Growth mindset works best when combined with effective learning strategies and feedback.
Growth mindset & the teen brain
Teen brains are more “plastic” than at any other stage of life besides early childhood.
Teens should dare to try new and challenging things to see how far they can stretch and “grow” their brains.
Teens should know that their efforts change the brain, and it’s easier to change the brain now than it will be later in life.
During adolescence, connections that are used a lot strengthen and become more efficient, while those used infrequently are pruned away.
How can games support the development of growth mindset?
In games, teens are more willing to try new things and take risks.
In games, teens get immediate feedback and may see the value of mistakes.
In games, teens may see visual reminders of the growth they have achieved.
In many video game genres, including platformers like Super Mario Bros and Spelunky, teens get immediate feedback on their actions. Unsuccessful actions, like errors in timing, often result in virtual lives lost and the immediate opportunity to try again, using different strategies
ADVANTAGES FOR TEENS WHO PRACTICE GROWTH MINDSET:
Seek Out More Difficult Challenges
Perform Better Academically
Want to Know More?
iThrive Games blog posts:I Haven’t Leveled Up…Yet: Growth Mindset in Video Games (Part 1) I Haven’t Leveled Up…Yet: Growth Mindset in Video Games (Part 2)
External resources:Video: TED Talk: Carol Dweck: The Power of Believing You Can Improve Article: The Atlantic: How Praise Became a Consolation Prize
Being friendly, generous, and considerate towards others.
Science of Kindness
Being kind is related to higher well-being. Studies show that doing random acts of kindness is a reliable way to feel happier.
Caring about the person you’re kind to (having empathy while being kind) makes you happier than just “going through the motions”.
Research shows that people are kind for a few reasons. Being kind out of concern for others is genuine kindness. Being kind to gain something or avoid a loss is strategic kindness. Being kind because you value reciprocity and fairness is called “norm-motivated” kindness.
People who feel positive emotions more of the time (those low in the personality trait of neuroticism) show more genuine kindness than those high in neuroticism. Feelings of distress can get in the way of kindness.
Kindness & the teen brain
Teens are especially idealistic. They tend to be motivated to help others for genuinely selfless reasons.
Members of “Gen Z” are more concerned about the welfare of others compared to members of older generations.
In early adolescence (about 10-13 years old), teens can be motivated to be kind for social rewards like reputation and respect.
Studies show that early teens who are kind are better accepted by peers and have higher well-being than their less kind peers.
How can games support the development of kindness?
In games, teens often empathize with great characters and may want to help them.
In games, teens may see the consequences of being kind (or unkind) play out in detail.
In games, teens may learn that being kind is one way to solve conflicts and make friends.
In games, teens may see how sharing resources, being considerate, and doing favors leads to reciprocation and “pay-it-forward” acts of kindness.
In Undertale, teens learn to challenge the assumption that the only way to win is to fight “enemies.” Over time, they find that being kind is another way to resolve conflicts and win.