Gamification and Parenting: My Journey with WhatsAppWell to Instill Healthy Habits

Marek Ciesla
3 min readFeb 29, 2024

In an age where digital distractions are rampant, parents face the unique challenge of instilling healthy habits, such as tidiness and responsibility, in teenagers. My journey with a gamified tool called WhatsAppWell represents a promising intersection of digital engagement and parenting strategies.

The Intersection of Gamification, Technology, and Teen Behavior

Gamification has been revealed as a practical and engaging way to influence teen behavior, harnessing the core elements of gaming — points, levels, and rewards — to transform mundane tasks like household chores into appealing endeavors.

Research-Backed Benefits of Gamification

Scientific research supports the claim that gamification can foster motivation and engagement, crucial elements for habit formation. A study on Habitica, a gamified task manager, demonstrates this effect, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful design to maximize benefits (Diefenbach & Müssig, 2019).

The journey to habit automaticity is reinforced by consistent actions, a concept underpinning the gamified systems. Lally et al. (2010) highlight that the time frame for developing automatic behaviors can vary, suggesting that gamified approaches must be personalized and resilient.

Furthermore, intrinsic motivation is vital; when gamification aligns with internal desires, the probability of sustaining habits increases (Gardner & Lally, 2013). By integrating actual challenges and rewards, as seen in web-based applications for habit formation, gamification’s impact is significantly enhanced (Gowthamani et al., 2022).

Embracing WhatsAppWell: A Father’s Account of Gamification in Parenting

WhatsAppWell has become a conduit for gamification in my parenting toolkit. Merging the intuitive WhatsApp interface with a rewarding system, the app has been transformative in shaping my teens’ habits.

A Gamified Approach to Everyday Responsibilities

WhatsAppWell’s streak feature ignited a competitive spirit in my teens, motivating them to maintain their streaks in exchange for digital rewards and, ultimately, real-life pocket money. This embodiment of gamification principles resonates deeply with the findings of Diefenbach & Müssig (2019), where task completion became more attractive.

Building Automaticity Through Consistent Engagement

Consistency is vital in habit formation, and the seamless integration of WhatsAppWell into our daily lives provides just that. Developing automatic behaviors through sustained actions aligns with the research of Lally et al. (2010), reinforcing that custom approaches to habit formation can yield substantial results.

using WhatsApp for forming kids habits

Intrinsic Motivation: The Core of Sustainable Habits

By making chores feel like a fun, rewarding game, WhatsAppWell taps into intrinsic motivation. This approach has proven effective in creating lasting habits, as supported by Gardner & Lally’s (2013) observations on the role of internal motivation in habit strength.

Concluding Thoughts: The Synergy of Gamification and Parenting

WhatsAppWell has exemplified how gamification can be a powerful ally in parenting, matching the digital fluency of teens with the timeless need for responsibility and discipline. Gamification, when executed thoughtfully, offers an avenue to engage teens in habit formation by making the process enjoyable and rewarding, as evidenced by the research of Gowthamani et al. (2022).

To other parents navigating the digital and real-world parenting divide, I can attest to the effectiveness of gamification strategies like WhatsAppWell. It stands as a testament to the potential of digital tools to instill valuable life skills in the next generation, preparing them not just for the digital age but for a productive and organized life.

References

  • Diefenbach, S., & Müssig, A. (2019). Counterproductive effects of gamification: An analysis on the example of the gamified task manager Habitica. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 127, 190–210. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.IJHCS.2018.09.004.
  • Lally, P., Jaarsveld, C., Potts, H., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998–1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/EJSP.674.
  • Gardner, B., & Lally, P. (2013). Does intrinsic motivation strengthen physical activity habits? Modeling relationships between self-determination, past behavior, and habit strength. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 36, 488–497. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-012-9442-0.
  • Gowthamani, R., Rani, K., Priyadharshini, M., Rohini, M., Ebenezer, G., & Thomas, E. (2022). Web-Based Application for Healthy Habit Development Through Gamification with ML. 2022 4th International Conference on Smart Systems and Inventive Technology (ICSSIT), 1338–1345. https://doi.org/10.1109/ICSSIT53264.2022.9716318.

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Marek Ciesla

Entrepreneur, Founder of Woolet co ., ALLCinema (allplayer, catzilla/allbenchmark), MIMIGroup, and Thorskan 3D. MBA Oxford Brooks — Intermittent Fasting 101