Keeping Kids Connected With Friends (When They Have to Stay Home)

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Things are crazy in the world right now! Your kids are likely home from school, and missing talking with their friends. They may be a little stir crazy, or wanting to play video games all day long. Luckily there are several ways that they can virtually “hang out” with their friends. They can play games together, chat, even help each other with school work. Here are several ways to help them stay connected!

As homeschoolers we are big fans of using technology to stay connected. I try to get my kids together with their friends as frequently as possible but they’d love to be together 24/7. One of the greatest things is that they can “hang out” virtually and so even if they are bummed that we have to head home after seeing them they can make plans to play with each other when they arrive home.

There are several platforms that we have personally used. Some have chat capabilities, some allow for playing video games together, and all of them allow for fun connection with friends. When my youngest son’s best friend had to move 9 hours away I was so thankful that they had a way to talk every day and not miss each other as much.

The beauty of this technology is that it isn’t all about video games. I know parents get really tired of Fortnite, Roblox, and other online multiplayer games. But with some of these apps they can just chat, they can prop up their tablet while they play legos, take their buddy outside and show them the dog running around… all kinds of conversations can take place and they can play “together” even when they are apart.

There are other platforms besides the ones I’m including here, but these are the ones that my family has personal experience with. They are the ones I know enough about to say they are a great option for other families. They are the ones that we know work well, are easy to set up, and can have  your kids chatting in no time.

#1- Facebook Messenger Kids– This is a favorite in our house. Facebook Messenger Kids is great because it is set up through a parent’s account. You have control over who your child is allowed to connect with, and you can see their messages. It is a great way for younger kids to connect with their friends in a safe way. But don’t worry they won’t need you to hand over the phone for this, you can download Facebook Messenger on pretty much any device so if they have a tablet or device of their own you can get them all set up. Messenger allows them to talk one on one or in groups, it allows for voice chat, video chat and messaging so they can connect in whatever way they’d like!

#2- Video Game Console Live Services– My boys love Xbox Live. With it they can play games with their friends no matter where they are. If your child and their best friend both have an Xbox with Minecraft, Roblox, or any number of games they can play together and chat at the same time with Xbox live. It is a great way for them to get the social interaction they crave while playing their favorite games. They also have “parties” where several kids can play together. Nintendo Switch has a live service too. With it you can only play together there is no voice chat capability, you can pair with it a smartphone app that allows for chatting in compatible games. With Playstation Plus you can play together and chat as well. There are some games that are cross platform meaning if one friend has a Nintendo Switch and another has an Xbox One they can still play together but that varies from game to game.

You can buy memberships to most live services on a monthly basis so it may be worth investing in one during this time that your child is stuck at home.

#3 FaceTime– Most people are familiar with Facetime but it was worth noting here. If your child has an iPad or iPhone then they can chat face to face with friends via Facetime.  

#4- Google Hangouts– Another platform that is available to almost any device is Google Hangouts. With hangouts you can video and voice chat and send messages and pictures. Hangouts also has the capability of talking one on one or in a group chat so several friends can talk with each other at the same time.

These are all great ways to chat and play together if your child is sick, has a friend who lives far away (or even up the street) or in a crazy time like we’re experiencing now where social interaction needs to be limited. There is no reason that because we’re stuck at home our kids can’t still have fun with their friends!

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