Helping Our Children Socialize Online
Many of our kids now find themselves using devices in order to “play” and connect with each other. For some, this has been a seamless transition; while for others, it has been a struggle to figure out.
If your child has felt hesitant to try a virtual play date or wants to have one but then seems to freeze up or have nothing “to do,” here are a few thoughts and tips we hope might help.
This might go well or it might not. It might last 2 minutes. It might last an hour. Follow your child’s lead and go with what they are comfortable with.
You may find that you need to do some planned ignoring when it comes to some of the silliness that may emerge from these play dates. Our kids need to blow off steam right now, so maintain your boundaries for appropriate language and play, but be willing to tolerate some zaniness too.
You may find that you are bending your screen time rules. Resist the urge to be down on yourself. Set a new limit and create new, reasonable family rules knowing that this temporary and not set in stone.
Help or hover?
Some kids may need an adult next to them to help get them started or even to maintain the connection. And some kids, well, they want the adults out of the way!
Remember that your options are not be present or be absent. Rather it is best to always be “around” even if not physically next to your child.
- Some general items to be aware of:
- The app/platform they are on
- Who they are talking to (individual? group?)
- How long they have been connected
- The general content/structure of the time—a conversation, a game, an activity, etc…
- If your child is gaming, make sure they are playing only with people they know in real life.
- As much as possible, become familiar with the apps they use and games they play. Common Sense Media and Smart Social are two great resources for this kind of information.
For kids who may be reluctant or shy, start with something that does not require direct conversation and/or minimal interaction such as coloring or listening to a story together.
If kids are struggling to think of what “to do” together, start with an ice-breaker sort of game such as “Would you rather?” For example, would you rather have breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast?
Start with a specific type of share—each of you can pick one item from your bedroom to show the other person. Or make it a silly share—let’s see what each other’s bathrooms look like!
Being on a virtual playdate can look like talking, playing, hanging, out, a craft, a movie, or any other play date activity.
Keep in mind that sometimes what might not look all that fun to an adult is actually making your child’s day a little brighter.
Here are some resources you can go to for tons of ideas and additional support!