Blog Article

4 Games That Encourage Empathy

I’ll never forget when my elementary school gave each of us a small, shiny stone imprinted with the word kindness to reflect our community motto: "Be Kind". More than 15 years later, the stone now rests on my office desk here at Common Sense Media –- a reminder of how increasingly important it is for us to foster social and emotional learning in today’s digital age.

Digital media is a double-edged sword. The downsides are powerful: Social media provides new channels for mean-spiritedness –- behavior that gets magnified by the public and viral nature of the Internet. But the upsides are also compelling. One upside is that app and game developers are beginning to create new content with kindness in mind. Through compelling narratives and fun apps, games, and digital media can help kids identify and understand emotions, practice perspective-taking, and think critically about ethical issues -– historically and globally.

We’ve gathered this list of our favorite games that reinforce the importance of kindness, empathy, and diversity in a variety of ways. Whether you use Re-Mission 2 in biology class to help kids understand what it’s like to have a terminal illness, or Wee You-Things during reading time to celebrate students’ differences, there are ways for teachers of all subject areas to encourage pro-social behavior.

Here are four of my favorites to get you started:

 

Cool School: Where Peace Rules
Cool School: Where Peace Rules is a free site that actively engages kids in learning through trial and error, just like in real life. Its characters translate abstract ideas like "inclusion" into real-world situations, such as inviting someone to join a team on the playground or a table in the cafeteria. Read full review.

Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are
Middle School Confidential is a graphic novel app about a group of friends who help each other cope with middle school and their own self-doubts. Through a discussion-rich narrative and some action, kids can learn to identify emotions, respect peer viewpoints, build friendships, persevere through difficulties, and put their troubles into perspective. Read full review.

Who Am I? Race Awareness Game
Who Am I? Race Awareness Game uses photos and personal quotes from a diverse group of people as a basis for the simple question-and-answer game. It’s a great way to help kids and teens know it's OK to think and ask questions about race, ethnicity, and other elements of identity in respectful, interested ways. Read full review.

Mission US: Flight to Freedom
In Mission US: Flight to Freedom, students warp back in time to 1848 and step into the shoes of 14-year-old slave Lucy King as she runs away in search of freedom. It shines most in the way it incorporates decisions into the story arc -- encouraging empathy and perspective-taking. As students make choices, those actions may become a part of Lucy’s character. In the end, the collected character traits help form the conclusion to the story. Read full review.

 

Have you used media to create a culture of acceptance and kindness in your classroom? Share your stories!