One of the biggest challenges my children have experienced during social distancing is missing their school friends. The boys are 10 (almost 11) and 12 and socialization is such a huge part of their development. Social distancing hit them hard. We struggled to find ways for them to interact with their peers, reaching out to parents for phone numbers and arranging FaceTime calls, but it was all very scripted and honestly, difficult to manage.
Kids, being resilient and flexible as they are, have found community in their video games. They play a few games like Fortnite, Destiny and Gang Beasts but primarily spend their game time in Minecraft. They can join a PlayStation “Party” and talk to (pre-approved) friends over their headsets. They get to converse with other children and “hang out” in a safe, socially-distanced environment.
The first few days of them playing in their “Party,” I noticed a lot of yelling and general rudeness while they were communicating with their friends. After some observing, we had a sit-down. Would you talk to your friends that way in-person? New rules were laid down: if you are going to engage in conversations on-line, you will be expected to speak calmly and kindly. We had to take the headset away a few times until they got the hang of it, but now they are truly building their communication skills by having to find ways to express themselves (with the added obstacle of not having body language to queue).
“Did you know that Matthew got a puppy?” “Did you log onto Mr. Pattie’s Zoom call yesterday?” “What chapter are you on in The Giver?” As it turns out, they don’t just talk about video games during these sessions; they really talk as though they’re in a group, face-to-face. I’ve heard them talk about their home situations, school work, required chores, books and even worries about this virus. Their time spent in virtual visits is absolutely strengthening their friendships in a way I never expected.
Happiness Found Here
The absolute best part of these PlayStation Parties the boys participate in is their overall happiness. There’s no doubt it has lifted their spirits and motivation over the last few weeks. They are more willing to knock out their school-work so they can play with their friends & they handle chores like champs. The huge smiles when they’re making jokes and strategizing over the next big Minecraft build is worth every screen-time minute.