We answer one reader’s question.
Q: How can my kids keep their friends during lockdown?
A: My oldest son has been taking the lockdown a bit hard. He’s 13 and he cannot go out and see his friends. Coordinating online gaming schedules is difficult and sometimes he misses the window for playing video games with his friends.
What can we do to help our kids maintain and even build their friendships during this time?
All online time is not created equal
My wife and I regularly limit our kids’ screen time. The children are limited to 1 hour every weekday and 2 hours a day on the weekends. The lockdown changed our routine.
Now, because we aren’t taking our clan out to activities, clubs, and groups, we have relaxed somewhat. If one of my children wants to spend extra time with a friend playing a video game, then I’m likely to let them. This could be the only opportunity they have to speak to someone outside our family today.
We make extra time for quality time. This is time when our kids have friends online, we want to help them connect.
What about safety?
We use two simple tools for keeping our children safe online. More time for them means more monitoring for us. To make things easier, here is what we do:
- We use a program called Accountable2You. A2U tracks all the activity on our devices and produces a report for us. It doesn’t block any content (our ISP does), but it does tell us what our children have done. This helps us have honest conversations with them.
- We insist on knowing our children’s passwords. Their online activities are not secret. When they tried to conceal things in the past, our response was to remove their devices until they appreciated our efforts to keep them safe.
With these 2 things going on, we’ve managed to avoid any serious breaches of safety for our kids.
Encourage them to do other things
Video games are easy. Kids jump in and play together. There are other options, though. Our kids do a few other things to connect with their friends:
- Virtual Cub Scout sessions bring a few more faces into view each week.
- My oldest son collaborates with some of his friends to make videos.
- Home Ed groups have organised their own online activities.
Helping your kids connect with their friends isn’t restricted to video games. You can point them in other directions, too.
A final word
Temporary. The lockdown is temporary. Life will go back to some kind of normal soon. My choice is to give my kids more time online with their friends just now. In the future, when more in-person activities are available, then their screen time will be limited a bit more.
You can find your own balancing point as well. Keep your kids safe online. Help them connect more with their friends. Once life goes back to normal, you can evaluate how much your routine changes again.