Why my 9 year old is now on Facebook Messenger and wasn't before

Why my 9 year old is now on Facebook Messenger Kids and wasn’t before.

My daughter is your typical, outgoing, friendly 9 year old. She’s in 3rd grade, she loves going to school and seeing her teachers and friends. Our weeks are normally filled with swim team, girl scouts, field hockey, school activities, visiting the library and much more. I have a monthly calendar in the kitchen that I update with all of our activities in different colors of erasable markers. The calendar is usually a rainbow of activities with few free days during the month.

A few days ago, I took out some Windex and wiped my calendar clean. Not because it’s nearing the end of the month but because we have nothing at all to do in the foreseeable future. There are no dentist appointments, no girl scout meetings, no field hockey practice, no swim team, even the library is closed. Like most of the world – everything that usually fills our days has been cancelled or postponed.

Everything is Cancelled

If I’m being really honest, the first few days of this crisis felt like a bit of a welcome relief from the chaos of our crazy schedule. Now that more than a week has passed, the reality of this situation is beginning to sink in for all of us. This isn’t a snow day, it’s not a vacation. It’s a mandated quarantine and that’s scary.

Luckily the four of us are here together and we’re thankful for that. We have a big yard to play outside. I couldn’t imagine the people who have to stay inside of their apartments and can’t get outside for a walk or to toss a ball. We’re definitely some of the lucky ones. We’re also calling, texting and Face-timing lots of our friends and family to help fight the feeling of isolation. We’ve set up schedules and have been doing lots of fun activities. All of this has been great for passing the time. But for an active 9 year old, who is used to socializing and being silly with her friends everyday, it’s not enough.

Wishing for Normal

The other night my daughter started crying and I asked her what was wrong, if she was scared. She said, ” No, I’m not scared. I just really miss going to school and seeing my friends.” I gave her a big hug and told her that I knew she missed seeing her friends. We’re all missing seeing our friends and family but we have to stay home to stay safe. She said she understands but she’s still sad and she just wishes things could be normal, she just wants it to go back to being normal.

Why my 9 year old is now on Facebook Messenger Kids and wasn't before.

What can we do?

We all very much want things to be normal again. We can only hope that this crisis will be over soon, so that we can all go back to our normal boring routines. But in the meantime this is our situation and my husband and I knew that we needed to help make things more “normal” for our daughter. So we discussed how we could help our daughter feel more connected to her friends. We know that we’re feeling anxious and scared and we want to do everything to minimize those feelings for our kids.

So, we’ve both been adamant for years that we don’t want our children to have a smart phone or use social media. We think there are way too many dangers for children in that space and it’s just not necessary (but that’s another post). This week we decided that for a short time, we would allow our daughter to have access to Facebook Messenger Kids. We’ve given her access to a handful of friends from school and also to her grandmothers. We’re monitoring the activity closely and she needs to ask us before she calls anyone.

So how’s it been going?

Well, the first thing we noticed is that we needed to teach her a few things about phone etiquette. She was so excited to be in contact with friends that if one friend called while another was on the phone, she would literally hang up to pick up the new call. (See ya – someone else is calling!) So we had a quick chat about that. (Sorry friends – she’s working on it!) Over the last couple of days, she’s been in contact with a few of her friends and they seem very excited to chat. They’ve been playing games, sharing stickers and just being goofy. Yesterday she had a tea party with her grandmother and played Yahtzee with her aunt – both in Florida. I’m so glad that we made this decision to let her have access to Messenger Kids. It’s taught her phone etiquette, I can tell she feels a little bit grown up having access to the phone and at the very least, it’s taken her mind off of the current crisis. The best part – for a few minutes each day – she and her friends can focus on the silliness of being 9 years old.

When this is all over we’ll need to talk about if we will continue to allow her to have access to Messenger Kids. I’m sure it will be difficult to take it away now that she has access. However, once she’s back to her daily school schedule and extra-curricular activities, she’ll have a lot more to fill her time. Chatting with friends online won’t be a necessity like it is now. In the meantime, I’m thankful that we have this technology to see our friends and family during this difficult time – if only through our screens.

Why my 9 year old is now on Facebook Messenger Kids but wasn't before