If families were asked to prioritize worries right now, or throughout this coronavirus experience, the order might fall something like health and safety, financial stability, education, a few other things, and then socialization.
There are of course additional, specific items we are all dealing with, but the point is, socialization and staying connected to friends and family outside of the household will probably fall lower on the list for many.
The reality is, while such placement isn’t saying socialization lacks importance, it is identifying socialization as a piece that probably hasn’t been given much extra attention as we battle COVID-19.
But with each day that passes, you might be noticing the social impact on your child more and more. The effect will vary by age and circumstance, but even my young preschooler is asking about his friends.
This piece can easily be brushed off by parents, telling their children “you’ll be OK” if they aren’t as connected to their friends as they’re generally accustomed to...which I guess is true to an extent.
But either way, that’s a huge adjustment we are asking of our kids and teens—to go from seeing friends daily at school, engaging in extracurricular activities after school, and spending weekends together, to being cut off entirely can be quite the jolt.
How kids can stay connected
Nothing can replace face-to-face, in-person interactions—that’s what makes that time so special.
But, in order to make the most of a situation, we need to embrace it; and it’s a key point to communicate when talking to kids about coronavirus right now. We just can’t go back to the way things were, so let’s try to make the most of how things are.
So, here are a few ways kids can socialize and stay connected with friends, and perhaps even develop new relationships.
Online communities like Roblox
Learning how to make a game on Roblox, and then sharing that game with others is a fun, empowering experience for kids.
But a big part of what makes the platform so fun is the fact it’s a thriving social community, allowing players to meet and converse with others.
Now, anywhere kids are interacting online deserves scrutiny and parental caution. It’s difficult enough on social media when kids are chatting with those with a “face,” let alone allowing kids to socialize and spend their time online in areas where others are more or less strangers.
Thankfully, Roblox puts safety above all else, continuously developing “cutting-edge technologies to ensure the Roblox platform remains a safe and fun space for players all over the world.”
How? Avatar clothing detection, reporting systems, chat filters, customizable parental controls, and a dedicated Trust and Safety Advisory Board are all put in place to keep Roblox as protected as possible. You can learn more here.
So, with these safeguards, kids can engage in perhaps their first digital socialization experience, playing, chatting and making new friends, but also learning crucial skills when it comes to how to manage themselves and their interactions with others online.
Virtual learning with other students
Not all virtual education is created equal, with each different type of online learning experience offering pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, etc.
What might make one of those experiences better than another, especially when it comes to offering the chance to learn and socialize, is a virtual course where kids and teens are learning in a live environment with other students.
And while that might just sound like an online classroom, which will trigger the thought of “well, how much are kids really interacting with other kids during a class session,” this is different.
I can’t speak to other programs, but with our Virtual Tech Camps, we are doing all we can to bring the camp experience online, and that starts with motivated, skilled, and experienced instructors who specialize in making learning fun, and creating engaging environments.
I mean, just read some of the feedback we have received. The learning is awesome, but kids are making true friends and building amazing relationships.
Last summer when I went to iD Tech, I met one of my now close friends, Violet. Now I’m doing Virtual Tech Camps. Every class I take, I make friends. -Sarah F., student
FaceTime and video chat
An obvious one, sure, so I’ll use this space to talk about a few things that can elevate the video chat experience to something more than what kids might have experienced before.
Really, the trick is to treat the call as if that person is physically present rather than just a voice and face on the other end. The phone then becomes a virtual portal, putting your kids into the homes of their friends, and vice versa.
When thought of that way, FaceTime now offers the opportunity to play charades or pictionary, or even something like chess and checkers. Or maybe kids want to watch a movie with friends, or share a meal, etc. It can all happen if you put your mind to it.
Email, tried and true
While phone calls and FaceTime are great for the reasons mentioned above, there is something to be said about emailing, and knowing that someone took the time out of their day to sit down and write a thoughtful message; it can certainly lift the spirits.
So, encourage kids and teens to stay in touch with friends via email. It could be a simple message of hello, a knock knock joke, or just a recap of the day’s happenings.
It’s also a great means of sharing physical creations; like attaching an image of the picture they drew, or the movie they created, or any of the other products of the many activities kids can engage in while stuck indoors.
This is physical distancing, not social
One thing for all of us to remember is that this is more physical distancing than anything else. Sure, interactions might be fewer, and will definitely be farther, but socialization doesn’t have to suffer.