Harry was an active and lively little boy. He loved cars, insects, loved playing football. He was a ball of energy and imagination. He enjoyed climbing trees, building Lego and playing X-box with Dad. Gradually, as Harry grew older, his interests narrowed down. By some unknown reason he stopped enjoying being outdoors as much, he stopped enjoying doing anything, apart from computer games. His days would be filled just with school and online games. Actually, only one game. Nothing else would light a spark in his eyes.
Harry’s story sounds familiar to many parents around the globe. Some worried parents would describe their kids as apathetic and disinterested, not being able to stick to anything, not motivated or driven. Often, they blame the technology for shrinking their kids’ interests. Can this be true?
Motivation and other soft skills are going to be the most sought after qualities, yet very little in our world helps to foster them. Motivation simply cannot grow where there is too easy, too comfortable, and, especially when the goal is too vague, or too far away. Motivation is bound to a clear goal, the “why” do I have to achieve. The goal has to match the intrinsic motive, or drive. People, and children, are motivated by different things. It can be anything from the sense of accomplishment to just having fun. The goal has also be achievable, not too far or impossible. On the other end, the goal can’t be too easy.
Three ways technology kills motivation for our children:
1. Setting the bar TOO HIGH. This world is unforgivably competitive. Older children and teenagers look up to impossibly perfect filtered images on Instagram, extremely financially successful teenage gamers, world-famous young YouTubers and decide for themselves that there is no point in trying, if one can’t be like them.
2. Providing environment that is TOO EASY. All the information is at the fingertips 24/7, everything can be copy-pasted, shared with a click, ordered online. This way of life doesn’t promote resilience; it becomes a comfortable bubble, a trap. Majority of social media platforms or online games provide very limited and one-sided experience. They are built to evoke reactions, not to promote creativity. Engagement with ready-made content gradually replaces motivation with addiction.
3. The access to the whole world at the fingertips and the postmodern fluidity of concepts, have made the goal TOO VAGUE. The children get the message that they can “become anything” and get paralysed. Teenagers are stunned by the choice anxiety – choose your subjects in school, choose your career, choose what to have in takeaway, choose your ideology, choose your favourite playlist, choose your sexual orientation, choose what to watch on Netflix, choose your
gender – most of them are not lacking motivation, they are just stuck at the crossroad with hundreds of paths to take.
What can we do as parents:
1. Keep defining the goal for them. Direct them, help them to identify their inner drives and unique talents.
2. Build secure attachments. Leaving a comfort zone is risky enough, without a pushy parent or demanding teacher.
3. Divide the bigger, seemingly unachievable goals, into smaller steps. Encourage and praise for every step taken. Insecure children can be encouraged through recalling and celebrating small successes.
4. Remember that the lack of motivation and apathy can also be a sign of depression, trauma or just a developmental stage.