Virtual play dates create connection during COVID-19


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METRO DETROIT – With many schools and activities closed due to COVID-19, kids are missing out on far more than face-to-face classes today.

At school, kids are constantly testing limits with their peers, which during a global pandemic is nearly impossible to replicate at home – or is it?

Although the virtual school connects students to their devices most of the day, experts say parents shouldn’t be afraid to loosen screen time limits if their kids want to connect with a friend after hours. normal.

“Before COVID, kids interacted a lot thanks to technology already, so I think for us as adults that seems like a bigger change than maybe for kids,” said Jenni Arnold, senior consultant in Beaumont behavior.

Many children have not been able to see their friends and peers for months, which takes its toll on the development of their social skills. Children learn by observing and imitating others, so spending time with their friends is crucial for their development.

“We don’t want children to just learn to interact socially like adults do. We want them to interact the same as children, developing a kid-friendly sense of humor, skills like conflict resolution and self-defense, and learning things like empathy and recognition of their own feelings, ”explained Arnold.

Virtual dating can help kids improve their communication skills, learn to problem solve, and figure out how to meet individual needs, all while remaining socially distant.

“As kids get older, they really start to move further away from seeking adult acceptance and begin to seek acceptance from their peers more. Peers are starting to play a bigger role in their lives, so we always want to find ways to facilitate that and make it happen, even if we’re doing it in a virtual setting, ”said Arnold.

The virtual and distance school options available during the pandemic have armed students with the technological skills necessary to connect with their peers outside of the classroom during COVID-19.

“They know how to use Google Meet to connect with kids. They know how to manipulate a zoom and use it to connect with children. Our children are very tech savvy. In many cases, they knew how to FaceTime before us. It’s common for them, ”said Cory Heitsch, executive director of elementary teaching and learning at Rochester Community Schools.

Still, sending your child with an unattended device isn’t the best idea, so it can be helpful to discuss your expectations and stay close enough to monitor the use of the technology.

Whether kids meet online to play video games together, build Legos, draw, or just chat, what they do in a virtual date isn’t as important as social connection.

“Overall, with kids who generally develop and develop in the same way as their peers, I would actually downplay how much you structure that time, because part of learning in childhood is learning from children. mistakes, trial and error, and learning to structure their own time. In fact, I would encourage parents to take a step back, always watch, but step back and let them work, ”said Arnold .

For young children, it’s best to discuss the time limit you’re comfortable with before the call to avoid any hassles when it’s time to say goodbye, and make sure everyone in the line House knows when the play date is because those on the other side of the screen can probably hear – and see – everyone in the house too.

Ultimately, virtual connections can have a very positive impact.

“It’s really important that kids can connect with someone who is living life in a wave similar to who they are,” said Arnold.

Heitsch saw it with his own eyes.

“My own daughters – I have a fifth and second year in a neighboring Oakland County district – use Zoom and FaceTime after hours to connect with their peers in the classroom. It’s a natural progression for our children in this environment as they clearly yearn for connection and they benefit from it, ”he said.

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