Sure, you’ve been stuck at home and are now feeling Zoom fatigue. Chances are your kid is too. That’s why it’s important for them to carve out a space of their own to connect remotely, for school or just hanging out with friends. After all, if they’re not happy with their immediate surroundings, the video meetups from home will be all the more unsatisfying.
Whether it’s Zoom or another videoconferencing tool, here are some tips to help your kids optimize the experience. Before you get too far into it, be sure to brush up on your Zoom skills so you know what you’re dealing with. (And pay close attention to those privacy settings.) Also, here’s a general guide to child-proofing your devices if you’re going to be loaning them out for second-period math class.
Of course, every kid and every household is different. If one arrangement isn’t working, feel free to shake it up. What’s important is taking the time to try different approaches and find what works best for your child.
“In order for your child to access their thinking brain, you’ve got to really calm down their emotional and survival brains,” says Hanna Bogen Novak, the director of speech and language services at The Center for Connection, a therapeutic organization in Pasadena, California. “That means helping them feel regulated in the moment.”
Finding an ideal arrangement should be an activity to tackle together. It’s good, creative bonding time and will help ensure your kid has a space that’s both functional and suits their individual needs. After all, they don’t want to grind away in a space that feels like it’s for boring grown-ups, and you probably don’t want your whole living room to be taken over by a sprawling fort built from teetering stacks of furniture.
The most important aspect of a good work or play space should be comfort—physical and emotional. You want to create an environment where your kid can relax and focus.
“In a perfect world, a child has a designated study space with limited distractions, with all of their tech needs figured out and set up ahead of time,” says Sierra Filucci, the editorial director of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit children’s advocacy organization that recently launched a platform dedicated to helping parents navigate the challenges of distance learning.
That means turn off the TV, give their phone a rest, and even maintain some space between siblings if things tend to get rivalrous. The problem, Filucci notes, is that many families don’t have enough space to set up a dedicated Zoom studio for every child.
“Some of these tips around getting your kids set up for online learning kind of assume that there’s tons of space or maybe there’s not many people in your house,” she says. “But maybe there’s a big extended family, or people are living in a one-bedroom apartment.”
In any case, it helps to consolidate. Filucci advises keeping a box or bin with everything you need to set up a work/play space. That way the gear will be easier to deploy each day than if it’s scattered throughout the house.
If an area needs to be used for kid and household activities, such as the kitchen table, there are ways to carve out a separate space while still keeping it available for other functions. Novak suggests using painter’s tape to mark out a square on the table where your kid has the freedom to place whatever they need to help them feel comfortable and connected. Just having some delineation of boundaries can give them a sense of agency over their surroundings.