5 WAYS KIDS CAN SOCIALIZE WHILE STAYING PHYSICALLY DISTANT (AND NOT BEHIND A SCREEN)
One of the biggest concerns for kids resulting from months of quarantine has been both the social isolation and rise in online time. With a high percentage of schools having some version of classes online, kids are required to stare at the screen way more than they normally would.
But what is happening during the rest of the day when they don’t “need” to be behind a computer? They are likely on social media, playing video games, or streaming videos – thus adding to the time exposed to a screen. A study done by WARC featured 9,500 respondents over the age of 16 that showed 58% of Gen Z and Millennials have increased their time on online, as well as increased the amount of time streaming videos.
As part of the increase in online time, we can assume there is a high percentage that includes facetiming friends and family, zooming with colleagues, and finding other virtual ways to connect.
But what impact is virtual socialization having on the younger generation that is still trying to hone essential social skills with peers? Additionally, what effect does all the isolation mixed with increased screen time do for one’s mental health?
According to Candida Fink, MD, a New Rochelle, New York-based child and adolescent psychiatrist, the social isolation is having the greatest impact on teens and adolescents. “The social drive is so key to what they’re doing developmentally, because the need to connect is so powerful, and the impulse control isn’t there yet, so we’re seeing that teens are not making good choices. Adolescents are so socially driven that social isolation presents unique risks,” says Dr Fink.
And while the effect on young children is still up for debate – there is evidence that says toddlers need the interaction with their parents more than with friends and peers.
In congruence with increased screen time, is a sedentary lifestyle. In Canada, Participaction conducted a study looking at the impact of Covid-19 on physical activity levels and found only 4.8% of children (ages 5-11) and 0.8% of youth (ages 12-17) were meeting 24-hour movement behaviour guidelines during COVID-19 restrictions, compared to the 15% (5-17 years) prior to the pandemic. In addition, 62% of kids and teens were being less physically active outdoors and 79% of kids and teens were spending more leisure time on screens.
Not only does physical activity improve one’s mental and emotional health, it also provides an avenue for play and socialization. However, now that interactions are restricted, we need to get creative as to how we combine movement and engagement. To remedy many of the concerns discussed above, BOKS has made it a priority to create free resources and methods for kids of all ages to stay active and to make the best of the current environment. Below are 5 ways to help kids not only increase their daily movement, but also learn social skills and connect with friends in safe ways:
- Following the BOKS Fitness Calendars in school or at home. These calendars use BOKS Bursts that are all suitable for physical distancing and don’t require equipment. Have the students connect across the classroom or get out of their chairs during days filled with Zoom meetings. Here’s an example:
- If you live in an area where there are a few other kids, see if you can organize an outdoor scavenger hunt where kids can keep their distance and wear masks but still learn social cues and teamwork. Get the whole neighborhood involved by adding clues in the window of each house!
- Start a group of pen pals! If you’re a classroom teacher, consider writing letters to another class to switch up the mode of communication between peers. If you’re a parent, have your kids write a letter to family members, or check out this website to find a pen pal. Bonus: Kids get to practice their handwriting.
- For larger groups that can be outside with masks, try a “BOKS Lesson Plan At a Distance” for specific physical distancing lessons. We curated games and activities that allow kids to keep their distance, no contact, and no equipment required so they can still interact via games and learn about communication and have fun. Sign up for BOKS and access the Trainer Hub to utilize many free resources.
- Last, but not least, encourage your kids to call their friends instead of FaceTime. We, by default, rely on facial expressions over video calls, but don’t forget that regular phone calls are still a thing! We can’t forget about the social skills required to talk on the phone, understand voice cues, and interacting via voice inflections rather than facial expressions.
Let us know any other ways you’re keeping your kids physical, social and also physically distant!
BOKS Coordinator, Certified Health Coach, B.A. Psychology