Why Kids Are Sick Of Zoom & What To Do About It, According To Experts
Whether you like it or not, Zoom has probably become a part of your everyday existence by now. Between your own work meetings, chats with family and friends, and (ugh) scheduling your child’s endless school-related calls, it probably feels like Zoom has taken over your entire life. But even though the online platform is a blessing in some ways (most kids love tech and it offers a connection to their peers), as weeks turn into months, it's slowly beginning to feel like a curse. Parents everywhere report that their kids are sick of Zoom (and the kids aren't the only ones).
“While there are studies that show a host of benefits for adults who want to feel more connection — and some early evidence that interactive video can have benefits for language development — many children are refusing Zoom,” Courtney Bolton, Ph.D., a child and family psychologist, tells Romper. “As adults, we have to remember that there is a process and timeline for developing social interaction and play. The typical trajectory doesn’t account for video interfaces.”
Still, for the foreseeable future, there seems to be no end in sight for those video calls. So if your child is starting to show signs that they’re zonked out from Zoom, these are some of the potential reasons why — and what you can do to help your kiddo adapt as best as possible.
1. They’re Shy
Even the most outgoing kid can clam up when it comes time to jump on a Zoom call and talk in front of their teacher and friends. “It’s important to keep in mind how children develop social interaction, and whether or not they are developmentally ready,” says Dr. Bolton. “Developmentally, children under 12 years old might not be socially or developmentally ready for Zoom.” If your child shuts down, you can always try to help them prep for the Zoom call so that they aren’t stressed out about it.
2. It’s Hard To Read Social Cues
When your child is with their friends IRL, they’re able to interpret body language as a way of understanding each other. But when they’re staring at a screen, your kiddo can’t do that. “As we develop social relationships, we use all of our senses to understand the context of our social interactions, including paying attention to non-verbal cues,” says Dr. Bolton. “When we video chat, we can't tell if a person is clenching their fists, shaking their leg or sitting calmly.” So it becomes more challenging for your child to understand if the teacher who’s speaking loudly is actually upset — or raising her voice because she hasn’t accurately adjusted the volume on her speakers.
3. It’s Not Natural
Sure, your kiddo might crave tech time, but even they can grow tired of it pretty quickly. After all, a typical day in school isn’t spent stuck behind a screen. “Consider what play looks like offline," says Dr. Bolton. "For younger children, it's often based around an activity. Rarely do first-graders sit around on the playground and have in-depth conversations about the state of the world.” Since much of their play is based on interaction, removing that necessary component and replacing it with a screen doesn’t feel normal… at all.
4. They’re Burned Out
If it feels like you’re being slammed with Zoom meetings, you’re not alone — or wrong. “Many kids are burned out on Zoom in the same way adults are,” Nina Kaiser Ph.D., a child psychologist, tells Romper. “Video interactions are more difficult for any of us to stay tuned into over time.” If you find that your kiddo’s calendar is full of Zoom meetings, speak with the teacher to see which ones are truly important — and which ones you can skip. That way, your child won’t feel like there’s a Zoom meeting every single day (even if there is a meeting every single day).
5. They Feel Uncomfortable
For some people, being on a Zoom call is like giving a presentation where every pair of eyeballs in the room is focused right on you. Stressful, right? Now, imagine how that feels for a younger child. “It can create anxiety in some kids,” Chicago-based psychotherapist Kelley Kitley, LCSW, tells Romper. “It might feel strange for your classmates to see your room or when everyone talks over each other.” Ask your child to try it for at least a few minutes to see if they can get used to the rhythm of the Zoom call before calling it quits.
6. They Don’t Have The Attention Span For It
Have you ever been on a Zoom call and you found your eyes glazing over? Well, the same thing can happen to your kid, too. “Really, little kids don't have the attention span necessary for extended Zoom sessions, whether those sessions are for school or whether they're video calls with family and friends,” says Dr. Kaiser. So if your squirmy kid can’t sit still during a Zoom sesh, remember that they're just not developmentally ready yet.
7. They Might Feel Trapped
It’s hard to explain to a child that they need to sit on a Zoom call for any length of time because it’s going to always feel like an eternity. That’s why you need to give them an option to log off when they reach their limit. “If they are ready to get off of Zoom, don't force them to stay on,” says Dr. Bolton. “Teach them how to say goodbye and give a quick cover story that’s short and sweet.” You might even rehearse this with your kiddo so they know what to say when the time comes.
School-related Zoom calls are a way of life at the moment, but don't stress if your kid needs to take a break. Once you figure out what's bugging them about Zoom, you can help to resolve the issue and set them up for scholarly success.
Courtney Bolton, Ph.D., child and family psychologist
Nina Kaiser, Ph.D., child psychologist
Kelley Kitley, LCSW, psychotherapist