Helping Your Child Maintain Real Virtual Friendships

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Way back in August of 2019, my then second grader came home after 2 weeks of school and announced that she needed a phone to text her friends. 

There was no discussion on my end and no bargains or incentivizing. The answer was a straight-up, ‘No.’ I told her, you were your friends every day, talk at school, you’re too young for the responsibility of a phone.

Fast forward to April 2020, and you’d find me signing her up for a service for kids to text and video chat their friends. Thank you global pandemic, for making me eat my own words. But, I did not get her a phone… that’s how I made myself feel better about it. 

And yes, I’m rolling my eyes at myself.

Being in quarantine, seeing her isolated for all other kids, was the first time I felt extreme guilt in my heart for only having one kid. Any other time, when my daughter craved contact with kids or friends, it was no problem! We’d set up play dates or meetups or just go to the park. My girl is a friendly little thing. 

Obviously, those options were unavailable to us. And we all know nothing makes a Mama hurt more than when your kiddo is hurting, and you can’t fix it. Therefore, I set up a few FaceTime calls, but she was missing the autonomy of maintaining her own friendships and communicating with her friends.

How was I suppose to help her with the isolation?

So after a bit of research and two requests from different friends to join, I set her up with an account. Oh, happy day! There were silly video chats, house and pet tours, games, filters, and emojis – oh my! It seemed like a great solution for her loneliness, and then…

I overheard these words, ‘I have to go, there is probably someone I want to talk to more online now.’ 

Whoa! Back the fun bus up! I get that she’s 8, and her filter is weak. She says exactly what she is thinking without pretense. And I cannot allow her to speak to other 8-year-olds that way. Maybe I’m worrying for nothing, but I want to nip it in the bud. 

The only trolls allowed in this house are the ones who sing, dance, and love hug time.

Big feelings and role-playing followed my discovery:

Would you say that to a friend on the playground? 

How would you feel if a friend said that to you? (I use this so much, I think I need to make a shirt so I can point to it) 

Try saying, ‘I have an appointment to video chat with Jane at 4, can we talk again soon?’ 

It’s the golden rule, kid!

Treat your friends as you want to be treated. And finally, I reminded her, ‘These are your friends in real life. It isn’t some YouTube person you’re watching make slime. If you want them to still be your friends after the pandemic is over, be kind and think before you speak.’

And now summer is here.

We are being very cautious as the state reopens. The playdates and meetups are all still virtual over here, for now. But maintaining friendships and connections is always a priority to us. And I’m hopeful that even though I’m teaching lessons about kindness on virtual platforms at such a young age, maybe the lessons will stick, and we will not be housing any trolls in this house in a few years. 

Except for Justin Timberlake, he can come over at any time.

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