Social Skills without Social Media?
Raising a happy and sociable mini-person in the digital age can be a bit of a media minefield. We’ve put together a few ideas on how to balance the fun of digital with real-world social skills…
Earlier this month, the Guardian reported that in a BBC survey ‘more than three-quarters of 10- to 12-year-olds have social media accounts.’ It can be hectic monitoring kids on their devices when you need to get some jobs done, and parents are often warned to keep social media out of sight. But we still want them to learn to communicate, recognise emotion, and understand others. So, how can you build up social skills with beneficial screen time, while avoiding social media?
Monitoring Devices and Parental Locks
Children’s device use boils down to time, and content. We’re keen to emphasise the importance of incorporating media into a balanced ‘diet’ of activities. It’s the timeless saying: everything in moderation! In short: make time for constructive and creative games and shows, and enjoy plenty of off-screen activities too. Pack the screens away an hour before bed, to ensure kids wake up well-rested and sociable for the next day (blue light from screens can prevent kids from getting their forty winks). Don’t forget that children pick up social skills from their parents, so why not challenge yourself to follow their guidelines too? Finally, keep social events media-free – dinner time, when friends are over, and so on. Check out this Time article for more ideas on device monitoring.
In terms of content, the simplest way to keep your kids safe is to install parental control software (ideas here). Download apps that look great and teach skills, and tell the kids to keep the sound on so you can always listen out for peace of mind. Playing through a new app before handing it over is also a great way of checking that what you’re giving to your children is constructive and fun. Make use of reviews to see what other parents think too.
Finally, pop the social media bubble and use tech together. Don’t be afraid to show your children social media if you’d like, just be clear on when they’ll be able to use it. Let your child watch when you play games, or speak to someone on the phone. Show them how you communicate safely and effectively – and they’ll do the same!
Above all, use their devices with them. Encourage their learning, and make screen time into valuable family time. Many apps have a storybook feel to them, and can be read aloud by a parent. Children’s books have always been a great way to show kids how to interact, how to start a new school, how to make friends, etc… And apps are following suite. Our first original character, Artie, now has two apps based around helping others to find or fix objects or animals. For example, in Artie’s Magic Pencil kids can follow a mischievous monster and fix whatever it breaks, helping others along the way. Bold and clear animations show the characters expressing worry and then joy, which is a great way to help kids recognise emotions.
How do you keep a balanced media diet for your kids? Feel free to email us at [email protected] or tweet us @minilabstudios.