Are Online Friendships Healthy for Kids with Socialization Issues?
You may have watched your child with learning or behavioral issues struggle to make friends. Experts note that children with these issues often have low self-esteem, have trouble with social cues, including body language and facial expression, and have limited chances to interact with their peers. Rejections due to difficulty interpreting social cues may cause hesitation to create future connections. Unfortunately, the more isolated a child becomes, the less likely they are to develop new friendships.
Online Interactions for Socialization?
There are now a number of social and educational sitesexisting that allow monitored online interactions, similar to adult social media sites. The relative anonymity of these sites makes them an attractive alternative for a child with social difficulties. Children can interact through chat, posting comments, updates or ideas without the chance of misinterpreting a peer’s facial expression, tone of voice or the implication in an inferential statement.
Although interacting online may seem like it has leveled the playing field for children with social anxiety, there are many alternatives to this type of interaction which are more beneficial to building social skills and encouraging social interaction. The below interactive activities allow parents to stay involved in the activity from afar, while strengthening a child’s social skills.
Alternatives to Online Socialization
Set up activities for your child’s play date that involve motor movement while avoiding competitive games. Activities such as obstacle courses, hop scotch, Simon says, and jump rope allow children to take turns while interacting.
Use the Kitchen
Cooking a recipe allows parents to be involved during a playdate, while the children create and learn and practice fine motor skills. Encourage children to take turns and be silly, while experimenting with the recipe. Be sure to choose a recipe that is age appropriate.
Inspire Story Telling
Story-telling is a great way to foster creativity, imagination and interaction between children without the pressure of a direct, back and forth conversation. Parents can be involved in the activity by verbally beginning a story and encouraging each child to take turns making up the next line of the story.
Assemble Sensory Play
Utilizing play activities that involve the senses can encourage a calm feeling for a child who is nervous about a social interaction. Digging in a sandbox, making slime, playing with bubble wrap, and creating texture balloons are great ways to stimulate the senses while interacting.
While internet interactions may be an alluring alternative to in-person social interaction, nothing can replace the skills a child can learn through monitored interactive play. Planning a play-date ahead of time, involving activities that encourage sensory stimulation and motor movement will help your child slowly build the skills to form real friendships.