Increasing Social and Emotional Competencies Through Online Gaming

Oct 21, 2016 3:53:45 PM Emily Jensen


Students across the country are utilizing online gaming platforms in elementary and middle schools to develop positive social and emotional skills that will help them increase academic achievement and transition throughout school.  Research shows that students who are able to manage emotions and behaviors within the classroom are more likely to have academic success. These emotional competencies include communication skills, empathy, anger management, and interpersonal problem solving; all of which are imperative to student achievement. This shift towards improving social and emotional competencies, instead of a sole emphasis on academic achievement, has been influenced by the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. States now have the flexibility in measuring and developing student skills, allowing districts to leverage new programs such as online gaming platforms.

Happify, which combines positive psychology research on character strength with games, is part of the charter-development program Thriving Learning Communities, a program implemented by the Mayerson Academy. Programs like Mayerson’s offer blended learning programs for schools that pair the science of character strengths with a version of Happify customized for school children. This is happening at a time when parent groups are concerned about protecting student’s data, personal information, and over exposure to digital tools. However, these platforms have great potential for social and emotional competency development. 

For some schools, these blended learning environments can benefit middle school students in building character strengths, which include creativity, bravery, leadership, teamwork and 20 other characteristics. The Deer Park school district, a community north of Cincinnati, has fifty percent of their students coming from economically disadvantaged families. This district recently implemented the Mayerson program to address the mental-health and social-emotional support of their students. There are several apps currently in the market designed to help youth with emotional development and to reinforce social learning, including Touch and Learn- Emotions and Breathe, Think, Do.