Back in “the day,” we had to actually attend school and socialize in person. Sure, we could call friends from a landline, but mostly, friendships were developed and maintained through face-to-face interactions. However, today, socialization takes on many different forms for teens. In fact, 57% of teens ages 13 to 17 have found and formed friendships with new people online, according to the Pew Research Center. So if you’re worried about your online student’s ability to form appropriate social skills, it’s okay! Most parents – with student in traditional schools as well as online – have similar concerns.
Online friendships are an important part of your student’s life, and they can form real bonds with the peers they meet through social media platforms, but learning how to behave within in-person social situations is an important developmental step that you might need to make an effort to encourage. To help your child have a sense of belonging and, in turn, to develop confidence, it’s important that your child has friends and feels connected in a group dynamic.
As the parent of an online student, how can you help them do that? Northgate Academy has gathered some tips for helping online students develop their social skills and broaden their friendships.
Create a Social Calendar
Being intentional about helping your student develop their social skills is your first step. As their parent, look for opportunities to gather with other families or have your student’s friends over for in-person time. Schedule a picnic, have them invite people over from their youth group or other activities, or help them schedule time in community organizations like library outreach or time at a community center.
Getting your students intentionally involved and creating a calendar of opportunities for them to socialize outside your home is the most important role you can play for this to happen.
Interact with a Tutor
It seems simple, but even by interacting one-on-one with a tutor, your child is going to learn how to overcome any social shyness they have. They will benefit academically, of course, but this safe zone for speaking with someone and learning how to listen and speak up when they need help will be a wonderful way to get them “out of their shell” and help them practice their social skills in a more formal setting.
All full-time NGA students have access to online one-on-one tutoring with experienced, highly qualified tutors through Train The Brain. This service is included in your tuition payments, so this is an easy way to help your student interact with a variety of experts, learning how to communicate effectively with an adult other than you!
Participate in Community Service
Getting involved in a community service project is a wonderful way to build your child’s social skills as well as their self-esteem. They get to do something for a person or group who they might never even meet in a group of other like-minded individuals. They can learn to interact with others, meet friends, learn how to follow instructions, and possibly even learn how to take leadership roles.
Not only will you be helping your student interact socially with others, but you will be teaching them about the importance for giving to others without expecting anything in return. Community service projects are everywhere, so take a look at volunteer opportunities that would match your teen’s personality and get them involved with a group willing to help make the world a better place.
Join Community Organizations
Community organizations can be community centers, political organizations, or any group within your community that is organized and working toward a common goal. This helps your student understand that the world around them is not run by “others”; it’s run by the people. Helping your young person get involved in their community in some way is a great way to help them become a more involved citizen for their entire life, and they can make great connections with peers and adults along the way.
Participate in Extracurricular Activities
Youth athletics, dance or gymnastics, youth theater, choir, or orchestra…these are all opportunities for your teen to meet peers whose interests align with their own and to develop a healthy relationship with others. They can explore their hobbies and interests while in a supervised activity that allows them to interact with many different people.
Learning teamwork and individual responsibility will help your teen become more confident and understand how to take the lead and when to step back. As social skills go, those are pretty important!
You want what’s best for your teen, so encouraging social activities with people outside of your immediate family is going to be one of the most important ways you can support your online student.
If your child is not already a Northgate Academy student, but you’re interested in learning more, you can check out our faith-based programs online. Still have questions? Feel free to send us a text at 763-412-4701 or call us at 800-339-7132. Our academic support team will be happy to answer your questions or help guide you to the best program for your child.