Connecting with your child when they spend most of their time texting friends, playing video games, or scrolling on social media is hard. However, getting frustrated and reminiscing about the “good old days” of playing outside and using dial-up internet won’t help the situation.
Instead, you must learn how to bond with your kids in the digital age. This doesn’t mean you need to spend all your free time playing Call of Duty with them — you just have to account for their needs and interests.
As a parent, you may be concerned that your child spends too much time online and not enough time socializing in real life. However, many children use their online personas and digital lives as a shield against bullying and other challenges.
If you feel as though your child is retreating behind a digital shield, it may be worth getting them tested for some form of neurodivergence. Kids who show neurodivergent tendencies are more likely to be bullied by their peers and may have a harder time at school if they don’t receive adequate resources. As a result, neurodivergent kids may turn to video games and social media as safe spaces where they can express themselves.
Getting your child to lower the digital shield and bond with you takes time and consistent effort. You have to show them that they’re safe away from the screen and that they can have positive social interactions away from online lobbies.
As your kids grow up, they’ll become nervous about major life decisions and the upcoming years. This is only natural, as their bodies are changing and the consequences of test results are increasingly important.
You can strengthen your bond with your kids by helping them navigate real-life challenges together. For example, when your kid moves to college, you can make the transition easier by taking care of simple tasks like renting a moving truck, packing up essentials, and sending them packages to help them with homesickness.
Remember that their list of essentials may be different from yours. Put aside space in boxes for things like consoles and their favorite games, as this can make the transition that much easier.
If you’re worried about your child’s use of digital media, you should try to open lines of communication. A direct conversation about your child’s use of digital devices and video games can help them see that they are addicted to playing online, and can be the first step towards a healthier balance.
One way to help your child unplug is to talk about their digital hobbies and learn about their favorite games or forums. You may not realize it initially, but kids can form strong bonds with other kids online while playing games like Fortnite and Minecraft. Instead of pulling your child away from digital social support, ask about their friends and be willing to learn about their interests.
During your conversations, you may realize that your child doesn’t know how to exist without digital interactions. This may sound sad, but most kids have grown up with all of the information they’ve ever needed at their fingertips. You can support your child by helping them complete digital detoxes and spend time appreciating the world beyond their screen.
A digital detox is usually reserved for burnt-out web developers or content creators. However, many children have spent an immense amount of time online in the past few years, as their education went remote and they could only interact with peers through screens.
You can help your child complete a digital detox by planning a vacation or backpacking trip together. Ideally, this should take you to a location without a phone signal or Wi-Fi connection as you’ll both be tempted to scroll on your phones if given the chance.
When you’re away from the web, try to develop an interest away from digital media. For example, if you decide to go for a weekend in a cabin, you can encourage your child to start reading more. Pack a few good books and sign them up for a summer reading program that incentivizes them.
Digital detoxes can give you and your kid a break from screens. You can continue to bond with your child when you return to your phones and computers by developing mutual interests that bring you closer together.
You may even find that you have some mutual digital interests to share. If you both love racing games or first-person shooters, consider joining forces and playing alongside one another in your free time.
If gaming isn’t your thing, you might want to sign up for a club together. Simple activities like joining the same running club or taking art classes can give you both something to talk about and strengthen your bond.
Bonding with your child in the digital age requires you to meet them halfway. Try to show interest in their hobbies, and ask about the people they’re playing with. You may both benefit from a digital detox from time to time, just be sure to bring plenty of alternative forms of entertainment like books and tabletop games.
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