January 27

Reflecting on Roblox

Considerations for Parents

If you are the parent of an elementary aged student there is a pretty good chance your kids are on Roblox.  Roblox is an online game or app in which players from around the world converge in different games that are created by its own users or professional game development groups.  Some games, such as Adopt Me! get a lot more play than others.  On October 10, 2020, Adopt Me! reached 1,786,076 concurrent players (data from the Roblox Wikia) and these popular games require multiple servers to accommodate the amount of players on the game.  Players gain Robux game currency by overcoming challenges or accomplishing tasks and this money allows them to buy new clothes and faces for their avatars, new houses, new vehicles, new pets, etc…  Parents can also connect a credit card to the players account so that kids can buy Robux.  Kids quickly get hooked on these games and on making purchases.

So let’s talk about some of the pros and cons of the Roblox revolution.

Pros

  • These games allow friends to connect in what is essentially an online playground.  That means that during a pandemic when kids aren’t having playdates in the real world, they can play together in the Roblox world.  There is a chat feature that allows kids to chat with their friends (or anyone else in that game on that server), but I have noticed that most kids put their friends on Facetime or in a Google Meet and then play together.  This allows them to talk to each other while they play which makes them feel like they are hanging out.
  • The game allows ample room for creativity.  Kids can design their own Roblox games which is an amazing feature.  They decide the rules for their game (villains, time limits, the world it is in, music, reward system, etc…)  The sky is the limit in terms of game design.
  • They learn how to earn money by accomplishing tasks just like they do in the real world with chores!
  • You can easily set up a chore/Robux reward system at home.  For example, if your child makes their bed and cleans their room each day, they earn a certain amount of Robux at the end of the week that you pay for.  I use this system for my own daughter and it is amazing how easy it is to get her to clean her room now!

Cons

  • Kids enjoyment of Roblox very rapidly turns into an addiction.  Managing screen time becomes of the utmost importance as it can quickly spiral out of control with this game.  Many of the games that are the most popular simply never end, so play can go on indefinitely.
  • Some of the games have scary or violent themes involving horror movie characters or shooting.  You may want to dictate which Roblox games you approve of and which ones you don’t.  There is a parental control setting that allows you to choose the games you want to allow.
  • Kids can chat with strangers.  This can be turned off by parents in the parental control settings or parents can choose to regularly check your child’s chat history by logging in.  The only thing I will say in defense of the chat feature though is that it is monitored by Roblox so kids aren’t allowed to swear, say anything suggestive, say anything political or religious, etc…  Kids who violate the rules are banned from the game.  However, by the time they get banned the damage may have been done, so be aware that it is always a possibility.
  • If you want to raise a voracious consumer with a deeply ingrained love of capitalism then this is the game for you.  Kids will constantly need more and more Robux to be happy and will bug you for them all the time!

Each parent will have different opinions as to why or why they do not allow their kids to play Roblox.  I allow my 9-year old daughter to play because it is a great way for her to connect with friends during lockdowns and Robux are a great incentive for her to do her chores every day without being asked.  But it is highly addictive and has caused its fair share of arguments about screen time.  So I have personally experienced many of these pros and cons!

If your kids are playing Roblox regularly I would encourage you to stay in the loop.  Find out what games they are playing on Roblox, who they chat with regularly, and make sure that you need to approve any and all in-app purchases so they can’t be automatically charging your credit card.  Sit with them and watch them play for a while.  Most kids will love to share about these games with you.  Open communication with your kids about their online lives is the best way to keep your kids safe online.

To find out more about the parental control settings visit:  https://en.help.roblox.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000375686-Account-Restrictions

 

October 15

Let’s Get Unplugged

Lower Grades Digital Citizenship

First, let’s read Unplugged by Steve Antony

So how do you use your time?

Everyone is going to get a sheet of paper and on one side you are going to write down all of the things you do plugged in (online) and on the other side, all of the things you do unplugged (offline.)  It will look a little something like this…

Once you have finished, I want you to fold this piece of paper in half.

What would your lives look like if you only got to do the things on one side of the paper?

Living our lives mainly online…

  • Let’s start with the plugged side.  If we spent our entire day online and did little else, how would we feel?  Discuss with your class NOW!  
  • After the discussion… 7 hours of Roblox or YouTube might sound great, but in reality, making media choices like this can lead us to feel tired, frustrated, headachy, and sick!

Living our lives completely offline…

  • Now what if we only had the unplugged side?  Would we be completely happy?  Is there anything we would miss?  Discuss with your class NOW!
  • After the discussion… It is okay to enjoy being online!  We get to chat on Facetime, play awesome games, and watch fun videos.

Let’s Aim for Media Balance

Media Balance is making sure that the time we spend online allows lots of room for the other awesome things in life.  This makes us all feel healthier and happier.

Being Unplugged means more time for colouring!  Here is a cute colouring page!

May 11

Remembering to be a Digital Citizen While Gaming

By now you are all amazing digital citizens when you’re online; you protect your private information, you don’t post mean comments on other people’s blogs, photos, or videos.  You are careful about the websites you visit and you balance your time online.  Now let me ask you this…

Do you remember to be a good digital citizen while you’re gaming?

What I mean by that is, when you are playing a game online like Roblox, Fortnite, or other games where you interact with other players online, are you remembering your online safety and digital citizenship rules?

Scenario 1:

You are playing a game in which players can chat with one another and you make a new friend.  This friend starts asking you personal questions like ‘what school do you go to?’ and ‘what’s your address?’

What do you do?

Answer:  It is great to make new friends online, but we still need to make sure and always protect our personal information.  Don’t tell strangers where you live, what school you go to, personal passwords, your full name, etc…  It is never safe to share this kind of information online.

Scenario 2:

During a game you notice one character won’t leave you alone.  They are continuously attacking your player or making rude comments to you in chat.  You really want to be mean back but you are afraid to get reported and blocked.

What do you do?

Answer: Don’t retaliate (i.e. be rude back.)  Just report the players behaviour to the game and show your parents or teachers.  These kind of players will end up getting blocked (kicked-out permanently) from the game.  Better them and not you.  After reporting them, log out for a while and try again later.

Scenario 3:

You have been playing a game for over an hour and you still can’t beat a certain level.  You notice your anger level spiking really high.  Your little brother keeps coming in your room and distracting you and you want to yell at him because it’s his fault you can’t beat the level.

What do you do?

Answer:  It is important that we notice how our emotions are being affected by the games we are playing.  If we are starting to feel angry, frustrated, rageful, and irritated, that is an indication that you have played long enough.  That is your body’s way of telling you you’ve had enough screen time.  Turn off the device and go outside to play if you can.  Nothing clears away those bad feelings faster than fresh air.  And bring your little brother with you to play!  He was only bothering you because he wanted a bit of attention too!  When next you play the game you will be playing with a clear head and have a much better chance of beating that level.

Here is a video where you can see some of these online scenarios in play.

Your assignment:

Play a video game (Yes, you heard right.  Make sure you have permission of course!)  While you play, notice and write down a few examples of some of the positive and some of the negative interactions you have with other players.  If your game doesn’t involve other players online, just write down some positive or negative feelings you experience while playing (having fun, getting frustrated, fighting with your brother etc…)  Then you will post your observations in the comments on this page.  It will be interesting to see what we all experience.

March 26

Media Balance and Keeping Your Focus

For this lesson you are playing a short online game.  You will need to play on a laptop or computer.  It won’t work on a tablet or device.  So if that isn’t possible, just read through the rest of this post.

Play the Twalkers Game: Click Here!

This game teaches us when is the right time to be on your phone or device and when it isn’t.  Most often, too many things happening at once is incredibly distracting and can throw you off your focus and balance.

Think about how the game made you feel.  Was it a bit too much like your actual life right now?  Were you overwhelmed?  Was it difficult to play well and accomplish the required tasks when you were distracted?

I think many of us experience this feeling of overwhelm when we are trying to do too many things at once.  It is important to remember to prioritize and stay calm in the face of all that is thrown at us!  This video will offer you helpful advice on how to manage your time and keep focused.  Once you’ve watched it, I want you to post a comment on this page explaining at least one strategy from the video you will use to help you stay on track. 

May 29

Helping Students Find a Healthy Tech and Life Balance

I met with Grade 5 on Monday for a workshop about finding media balance.  They are only a few months away from middle school, and when that starts, a big part of the social life of a tween moves online.  But how much time they devote to social media, video games, and youtube, should really depend on finding their own healthy balance.  A place where they feel at their best.  A big part of that is thinking maturely and critically about the emotional impact of too much media.

It was great to hear so many students talk openly about how spending too much time playing video games makes them feel angry and frustrated.  Or about how they would prefer to be playing with their friends at the park then spending time on a screen.  It was also great to hear the positives of media… that for some, watching youtube helps them feel relaxed and happy.  Or making tic toc videos is a creative endeavour that they enjoy doing with friends.  It is important that children have the self-awareness to realize the impact that it has on them both good and bad, rather than there being a negative or nagging message coming at them that they spend too much time online.

Each student created a plan for a perfect day on paper made up of activities (both media and non-media) that would help them to feel their most balanced.  For each student this will look different and it is important that there is no judgement attached.  There is no right and wrong here, but there is a balance that feels right for most of us.  I should note though, that for students dealing with a video game or technology addiction, further steps and support will be needed to get them to that healthy place.

Ms. Thompson will be having each of her students write a blog post about a few reflection questions that I handed out to them.  I am very excited to hear more from them on this topic.