How Parents Can Benefit From Using AR For Their Kids

Words By Corbyn Wittig

Okay, I’m a mother-of-three. My oldest is seventeen, and my little one is nine. I’ve been doing the parenting-thing for awhile, and I can attest to the fact that no overarching style works for each of their distinct little personalities. I’ve done it all, from super-hippie attachment parenting (with my first, naturally) to letting them gorge on Pirate’s Booty in front of streaming episodes of Adventure Time. Over the years, I’ve gone from being pedagogical and holier-than-thou as a parent to flipping the table and finally admitting, “I know nothing.” My children teach me more than I teach them, and humility was my first big lesson.

Moving along to #familygoals: I’d been talking with my therapist over a period of a couple months about how to continue to improve as a parent. About how I wanted to react versus how I had been reacting when facing the same altercations over chores, or dinner choices, or electronics that get replayed day after day. I would often get caught up in the negative emotions of the conflicts, which in turn amplified the kids’ negative emotions, and meanwhile my husband would be thrust into any number of roles: enforcer, peace maker, defender (of me or of them.) All of this within a swirling miasma of basic family grumpiness, setting a bad tone when in retrospect it could all be handled much better . . . with no one having any lasting bad feelings at all. I realized that the people in life I most admire are those who can defuse a challenging situation using humor or by bringing in an element of fun.

I’ve been testing the AR app, Metaverse, which, at first blush, looks a lot like PokémonGo. What’s been fun, though, is this: instead of “capturing” Pokémon in order to ultimately fight battles at “Gyms” (which honestly never interested me, though I had amassed an admirable group of combatants in my Pokédex by the time I stopped playing,) the characters that populate the Metaverse are user-generated. And instead of “catching ’em all” for nebulous reward, what happens in Metaverse includes satisfying interactions with the characters (and you can create your own avatar for each, or use any number already extant, from orcs to Bruce Willis.) You choose a character and create a little story that can lead to an action, tell a narrative, communicate a message, and on and on . . . it demands creativity, but pays off through being a much more robust experience for both user and creator (and you’re usually both.)

As a mother, an idea came to me immediately. An idea that just might result in a cease-fire on an issue in our home that causes friction. In lieu of nagging my kids to go outside and get exercise before plugging into devices, YouTube, and gaming, I created this (and yes, I am well aware of the irony that I’m using a game on a device, here . . . )

I placed the looming Mama-Head at the base of the staircase in our living room and notified the kids they should check Metaverse when they got home from school; I thought they might find something of particular relevance to them. They feigned crankiness (to varying degrees — my teenager might have been genuinely irked) but acquiesced to my diabolical demands! I did a victory lap around the block and later welcomed the kids home, cheeks flushed from their chilly hunt for a Mama-Head on the hike-and-bike trail (which I had slyly positioned at the halfway point of their required walkabout.) Now I need to brainstorm other ways to employ this fun tool in order to get my offspring to do my bidding . . . or at least to do what they’re expected to without a bad-mood-spiral infecting the house. Fun wins!

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