How to Make Virtual Calls Better for Little Kids

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If you’ve ever eavesdropped on a preschooler’s phone or FaceTime conversation, you probably found it very entertaining, but also a little cringey. After all, young children are still learning the social graces of one-on-one conversations.

Our experts in the Kiddie Academy Education Department have offered the following guidance on how to make virtual communicating a comfortable and worthwhile experience for kids of all ages.

Is It Worth Trying to Teach Your Child Virtual Etiquette?

As with any one-on-one interactions your child may encounter, you want them to be polite, responsive, well-mannered, and cordial. But the reality is some of these expectations can be developmentally inappropriate, especially with younger ones. In the early years (2 years old through preschool), your child’s receptive and expressive language skills aren’t fully developed. They don’t comprehend certain questions asked of them and will have difficulty responding appropriately. Or they may not respond at all.

However, the persistence of the coronavirus suggests that virtual interactions will continue to be the new normal and the future, so it’s important to teach children at an early age how to navigate and behave in a virtual world.

Tips for One-On-One Virtual Calls with Kids

It’s a big deal when children can see and talk to friends and relatives one-on-one via the screen. Here are a few bits of advice on how to turn the calls into a good experience for everyone:

1. Calls should be short. Recommended maximum times are two minutes for 2-year-olds; three-four minutes for 3-4-year-olds; five minutes for 5-year-olds, and so on. The interaction will be short and that’s OK, too. It may take more time to set it up the call than the call lasts.

2. Many young children become shy—reserved and uncomfortable—seeing themselves and others on a computer screen, while others will become excited and chat away. That’s OK. Don’t force the interactions and instead be gentle and supportive.

3. Sometimes the adult may be the one holding the child back from being comfortable enough to interact with their friends. Find alternative ways for them to interact with friends—send letters, call on the phone, do a drive-by and talk from your car, etc.

4. Don’t worry about your child not looking directly into the camera. Children have difficulty making eye contact in person. Looking into a small hole on a computer and being attentive enough to do so for the duration of a call may not be developmentally appropriate.

5. Avoid using the same space for one-on-one chats as you use for virtual learning. Try to separate the two so that your child is aware that one area is for learning and the other area can be for talking to friends.

6. Encourage your child to share toys, books, or anything that interests them with their friends. If possible, set up the computer so that the children may play together virtually and talk to one another as they play. It’s comforting to know that a friend is with you, even though it’s virtual.

This post originally appeared on Kiddie Academy Family Essentials Blog.

Richard Peterson has over 20 years of experience in early childhood education where he has been involved with the direct and indirect instruction of students. As the Chief Academic Officer, Peterson provides daily support to the Kiddie Academy education department in the areas of curriculum, assessment, training and more.