Video Games and Apps to Teach Empathy? No Substitute for Human Interaction

NPR reports that In Silicon Valley, a $20 billion industry is analyizing kids--observing, measuring and sorting data--to develop screen games to teach kids how to navigate interpersonal challenges and failures. Can it work? The fun factor may give it a marketing edge, but Dr. Steiner-Adair warns that what's best for the game industry's bottom line isn't always what's best for kids.


But Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist at Harvard and author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, is concerned that kids and their parents already spend too much time on devices. "Nothing — no new app, no new game — can replace the old truth, I think, that children thrive, that families thrive, in the context of healthy real-life relationships," she says. Still, Steiner-Adair says, a game that helps kids practice skills like listening and working through difficult emotions might be useful if it's played in moderation. "I am cautious, but I am guardedly optimistic that there could be some kind of computer game that could strengthen children's social and emotional intelligence," she says.


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