I’ll be the first to admit, I allow too much screen time for my kids. I do. Unfortunately (or fortunately), they grew up with a mother who has a blog so they saw me ‘playing’ online an awful lot. Not that not wanting to be hypocritical is an excuse. As long as their work is done, their time is theirs…within reason.
Ever since my youngest switched out of his public school to attend a small private school for kids with ‘learning differences’, his social life has kind of come to a screeching halt. He had all but alienated himself from the kids he had gone all through school with since the 1st grade by the time he hit 6th grade. And, the transferring of schools didn’t help socially. But wow, it was amazing academically. This kid who had been walking around feeling like he was stupid circa 4th grade is now realizing his true potential. We’re talking mostly A’s!! Mom brag moment!
My four older kids, their screen time isn’t as monitored anymore. I mean, they are 18 and over. So, the only thing I expect from them is to know where they are going and who they are with. Plus, a check-in every now and again while they are out. Because I worry.
My youngest is home. We’ve tried to encourage him to find interests but he doesn’t really have any aside from video games and riding his bike. Riding his bike, however, is seasonal because Michigan has some funky 4 seasons going on. Oh, and fishing. The kid loves fishing. Again, seasonal. And, I also happen to think that once he regains the self-confidence he used to wear so proudly, he will find other interests.
Since he doesn’t have a ton of friends in real life, he is starting to find his “tribe” online. However, since we all know how dangerous this can potentially be, we make sure his “tribe” is filled with kids his age. Somehow, so far, so good. We’ve spoken with them. We’ve been in the room during Skype calls. His friends are kids and they are from coast to coast…literally. He’s got some friends in Washington state and some in New Hampshire and a few scattered in between. Also, many of them have YouTube channels and believe me, this are kids.
Being a blogger, I get it.
I get that when my son is talking about his friends with the funny screen names, he’s talking about actual friends. I hear them laughing together and chatting about things as they do whatever it is they are doing on Minecraft. Sometimes, his laughter is so loud, I forget that there isn’t another kid or group of kids in the room with him, in the physical sense.
I remember when I first started blogging and I would talk to my husband or whoever…about my blogger friends. I’d get those looks. If you’re a blogger, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re the friend of a blogger, you probably know what I’m talking about, as well.
Trust me, online friends are real friends too. I think that this blogging thing has been going on long enough to have supported that little fact. Friends are friends and when you find your tribe, whether it’s online or in real life…or those two collide, it’s as real as it gets.
One of my mother’s closest friends started out as a pen-pal when she was 13 years old. Their correspondence grew into one of the most amazing friendships. My sister and I grew up calling this woman aunt!
How is having online friends any different than the pen-pals of years ago?
Yeah, it’s really not.
While I wish my son had more friends that were here, by us, I’m okay because he seems happy. Sure, he would love to have friends come over. And yes, he has a couple that still do come over. But, he’s just as content with his online friends as he is with those occupying physical space next to him.
So, these days, screentime is equivalent to a friend coming over and playing video games for hours. Only, that friend is sitting at his own house in another state.
The same goes for my hanging out on Facebook, chatting away with my friends.
He may be online too much, and that’s not necessarily healthy. He’s happy, though. And his friends, those kids whose voices we hear through the microphone in his room, they are a part of what’s causing that. And the fact that he’s not in that public school which was destroying his spirit. But, that’s a topic for another blog post, when I’m ready to talk about it.
But, as I write this, I’m in the midst of making meet up plans with local blogger friends that I met ONLINE while my son is upstairs making a YouTube goofy video with his friend that he met ONLINE.
While being online can seem like such a solitary way to spend time, especially for kids, it’s really not. I can’t help but believe he is getting an amazing amount of social interaction. He’s learning about kids from other parts of the country. He’s understanding how to communicate in a different yet equally as important way. A whole world of friends has opened up to him at a time when he needed it to.
Who’s to say what the right way is to make friends these days when there are so many different opportunities open to us that didn’t exist when we were youngers.
Friends are friends.
So, while he may be having too much screen time, he’s also spending that time with friends which makes me a little more okay with it.
I just need to get him a little more physically active but I’m working on that this summer!
Do your kids have online friends? How do you monitor their relationships and screen time?