Teach your kids Situational Awareness

articles podcast May 29, 2019



Why your kid may not have situational awareness, and how you can fix it

I want to have a discussion with you about situational awareness and be able to share with you some ideas and techniques that you can use with your children to help them to be able to identify potential risks, hazards, or threats, as well as obstacles and exits; should they need to be able to get themselves out of a dangerous situation quickly and effectively.

Situational awareness kind of seems like a tactical term, and I guess it is, but more than anything, it's just having a positive assessment of your environment in any condition.

Things that might be dangerous, things that might create a risk, possibly people that I know are going to challenge your child. They want to be able to identify that quickly remove their self or de escalate those situations in the best way possible.

It's really nothing more than coaching your children like you already do to look both ways before they cross the road, or, "Always be aware of your surroundings." And I can go on and on with examples.

How do we get our kids to increase their level of situational awareness, regardless of where they might be, who they may be with, the time of the day?

When do they lose that awareness, and how does that happen?

Let's go there.

I think the best simulation, at least that for me as a dad, is in gaming environment. I'm sure a lot of you can identify with me when your kids get completely immersed into Fortnite, or whatever the video game that they might be playing. Here's what happens very often while they're gaming, and why I find it so interesting.

There is a constant feedback-loop of fight or flight that’s happening. When this happens, the sympathetic nervous system activates, and their mind is in this micro fight or flight mode over, and over, and over again.

When this activation happens, a sequence of physiological changes happen, one of which is called tunnel vision.

You may have heard of this before, where someone gets really scared or they have to fight for their life or they're running and fight or flight kicks in, and they don't see what's going on around them.

It's a very natural thing that happens.

When a dangerous situation or a risky situation escalates, something that creates a high level of anxiety and stress and fear for them, they're not going to be able to take a backseat and tell themselves to, "Okay, well, tunnel vision is about to happen so what we need to do is increase our field of…" That's not going to happen.

It's up to us to give them exercises, and help train their body so when something does happen, it’s less likely that tunnel vision will over.

In the gaming environment, this is the state players are in most of the time.

Pretty interesting. So I decided to do a little research on this.

In first person gaming situations, there's a whole number of things that top gamers identify as priorities for their skill. They train to prevent nausea and motion sickness. I thought that was interesting, why? By not getting tunnel vision. How? By training the gaming court vision, the peripheral field of vision within the game.

These players identified the major risk that tunnel vision has to their gaming results, and have created models to prevent it through training.

There are three things that the top gamers identify as being a priority for getting the best possible outcomes in a gaming experience.

  1. Having a strong field of vision
  2. Having strong decision making skills
  3. General awareness

In general, we have 180 degree field of vision. Sometimes more, often times less.

One of the ways that athletes train to develop a strong field of vision, or what's oftentimes now referred to as court vision, is by extending their arms to the side, wiggling their fingers, and moving their hands back as they wiggle the fingers.

Once they start to see their fingers leave their field of vision, while looking straight ahead, they are able to identify their field of vision threshold.

In the martial arts that I teach is an open arm posture with both arms open wide, it’s actually considered to be one of the most combative models of body language.

Not hands up in a conventional fighting stance, but actually with the arms open.

It's understood that if my field of vision is straight ahead, solely focussed on a threat - then all of a sudden I notice another threat and another threat at my sides, maybe two buddies coming in to surround me; my field of intent goes from a linear line to now opening to about 30+ degrees.

Now I notice another threat to my three o'clock and then to my nine o'clock, I'm in a situation where I'm surrounded.

If I was squared up in this conventional fighting posture and with a single eminent threat, that would be fine.

But we want to be able to train our children so that at any given time they're able to identify threats within that 180 degree field of vision, and putting them inside a monitor and in a video game environment where they're constantly going through that feedback-loop of micro fight-or-flight experiences over and over and over again, only puts them into a constant state of tunnel vision.

I'm sure you've probably tried getting their attention in the middle of a game, "Hey, hey, hey!”  Often times it’s as though you don't even exist!

Oftentimes, they’re just be being a pain in the ass, but oftentimes there's a very real reason for their failure to respond. Because they're in that feedback loop!

The brain is shutting down the unimportant noise and only focusing on the threat, the risk to their survival, which is when fight-or-flight happens, tunnel vision closes activate, the field of vision tightens, and they’re now only focused on that loop for survival.

We don't want our kids being in this space for hours a day, where they're having a dopamine spike back to back. These are processes within your brain that are supposed to be pretty far apart.

With tunnel vision being a consistent state, triggered by first player gaming anxiety, I would suggest that it becomes easy for it to trigger when a potentially dangerous situation eventually does arise in real life!

What do we do to protect our kids from tunnel vision and maintain a strong situational awareness?

Well, number one is to minimize the amount of screen time that they have.

Second, let’s create a greater distance from the monitor so that we're widening their field of vision to no less than 60%.

Finally, teach them exercises so that they can consistently witness things that are far into in their peripheral field of vision. Look them in the eye,  let's have a staring contest … what are two things that you can see happening to your left?

Another thing might be to have a staring contest and hold a number up with your fingers, arms stretched out to the side as far as you can.

Keep training and stimulating an increased peripheral field of vision.

This is the first step to helping them have a strong sense of awareness in any situation that they get themselves into.


JUNE 28TH, 2019


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