Children: Technology and Socialization

Although the restrictions that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic limited people’s abilities to connect face-to-face, many families and children were able to adapt and use technology to help them stay connected. For example, your family may have kept in contact with loved ones through social media and video calls. Even though social distancing is less common now, there are ways that your child’s social-skill development may benefit from interacting with technology.

How Can Technology Benefit Children Socially?

Internet-based communication and connections are often commonplace with adolescents and teens in our society. So, as a parent, you may want to broach these topics with your younger child (and even your teen) to help keep them safe in the social media world while also letting them experience the world the internet has opened up. With technology, your child’s world can expand beyond the physical region in which you live. When parents and caregivers allow children to safely experience the world through their internet-based community and connections, these children can realize some important benefits (Digital Responsibility, 2023):

  • Meet and make friends with peers who live all around the world.
  • Be exposed to and learn about different cultures, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and religions.
  • Learn about and experience empathy, tolerance, and understanding toward other people.
  • Discover how human’s interact with others on a larger scale.
  • Connect with peers in a comfortable setting. This may be helpful for individuals who struggle with or may be nervous about face-to-face interactions.
  • Stay connected with peers and family members they may not often see in person.

How Can You Help Your Child Use Technology?

Although there are benefits to using technology as a way for anyone to develop social skills and increase socialization, as a parent, you may want to help your child learn how to balance their technology use (raisingchildren.net.au, 2022). Try some of the suggestions, below, to help your child balance their time using technology, and, as a bonus, stay involved in their lives in the process!

Encourage face-to-face socialization

  • Encourage your child to interact with and spend time with peers in a face-to-face situation in addition to their communications through technology.
    • Communicating and socializing face-to-face with others can help your child learn social cues, such as body language and facial expressions, in order to enhance their interactions and social skills.

Set boundaries and expectations

  • Discuss with your child what realistic and healthy expectations for their technology use could look like.
    • Work with your child to create and set these expectations. Because you are involving your child in this process, they are learning how to set boundaries for future situations and are more likely to follow the agreed-upon rules.

Play video games together

  • Learn about their games, and ask about the friends they are playing with.
    • Doing this can help you learn about their interests, can offer you opportunities to discuss social situations within the game, and help you be more in tune with their connections (e.g., for safety reasons).

Watch media together

  • Sit with your child and watch their favorite television show or movie, and talk to them about the social situations that are happening on the screen.
    • This can be an opportunity for you to connect with your child and discuss real-life situations in a non-threatening or pressured way.

When you and your child work together to use technology safely and responsibly, you and your child can identify ways to positively benefit from social interactions inside and outside of the household!

References

Digital Responsibility. (2023). Digital responsibility: Taking control of your digital life.http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/the-social-impact-of-technology-on-children

Prothero, A. (2022, April 12). Is tech destroying kids’ social skills? Here’s how social-emotional learning can help. EducationWeek.org. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/is-tech-destroying-kids-social-skills-heres-how-social-emotional-learning-can-help/2022/04

Raisingchildren.net.au. (2022, October 27). Using screen time and digital technology to socialize: Children and teenagers. https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/entertainment-technology/digital-life/screen-time-social-life

Żerebecki, B. G., & Opree, S. J. (2022, December). The direct and indirect effects of social technology use on children’s life satisfaction. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcci.2022.100538

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