You wake up in the morning and check your schedule — and of course, there’s a Zoom meeting. But then, you look at your child’s school schedule, and (welp), they have one, too. If it feels like your family can’t escape Zoom, well, you’re right. But if Zoom meetings have both you and your kiddo wanting to hide under the covers, you’re not alone. Many people, parents and kids alike, are struggling to connect to video conferencing—both literally and figuratively. So if you want to seek more understanding, this is why your kid hates Zoom.
“Many kids are burned out on Zoom in the same way adults are!” says Nina Kaiser, a child psychologist and owner of Practice San Francisco, a wellness center for kids, teens, and parents. “Between school and trying to stay connected with family and friends, kids are spending more time on screens than ever.” And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
But while schools are closed, Zoom calls are the best way to connect your kiddo to their classmates. Here might be some reasons why your kid hates Zoom — and what you can do about it as a parent.
1. They’re Distracted
When your kiddo is in a classroom, they might find it easier to focus on their schoolwork. After all, it’s quiet, everyone is working at the same time, and the teacher is there to offer assistance. But at home, they might be squabbling with their siblings, the dog might be barking, and the doorbell may be ringing — all at the same time. “There are lots of distractions all around that kids are even less capable of resisting than are adults,” says Kaiser. So try to find a noise and distraction-free space for your child to Zoom from, whether it’s a bedroom or even the basement.
2. They Don’t Have The Attention Span
If you find that you can’t focus during your own Zoom meetings, imagine what it’s like for a kid. “Really little kids don’t have the attention span necessary for extended Zoom sessions, whether those sessions are for school or whether they are video calls with family and friends,” says Kaiser. If it’s important for your child to stay on their Zoom call, “try to attach rewards for showing up and/or participating in a meaningful way,” says Kaiser.
3. They Feel They Have To Do It
No, you’re not imagining things; your child does have a lot of Zoom meetings on his calendar. The good news is that you don’t have to do all of them. “For academic Zoom demands that don’t feel optional, I’d encourage parents to partner with their child’s teacher or school as a means of getting additional support,” says Kaiser. Then, for meetings that aren’t as necessary, try to work out a different schedule so that the number of Zoom meetings isn’t as overwhelming to your child.
4. They’re Already Stressed Out
As much as you might have tried to shield your child from everything that’s going on in the world right now, your kiddo knows that life has definitely changed. They’re no longer in school, they can’t see their friends, they have to wear a mask when they go outside—it’s a lot for a little kid. So add onto that the pressure of having to sit still for a Zoom meeting and it just might all be too much for your child. “No matter how old your child is, it’s important to remember that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic,” says Kaiser. “We’re navigating uncharted territory in terms of the number of Zoom obligations kids are encountering, and it’s okay to relax our expectations for kids’ engagement or attendance in these sorts of events!”
5. They Find It Impersonal
“Zoom is an inferior experience to actual face-to-face contact,” says Dr. Lea Lis, a double board-certified adult and child psychiatrist. “It’s very impersonal.” Your kid can’t interact with their friends (or even their teacher) in the same way that they would in a classroom or in the lunchroom. So in that way, Zoom creates an automatic disconnect between what your child is familiar with and what they’re being forced to do, which is sit in front of a screen and try to connect in that way.
6. They’re Just Not Ready For It
If you think your 5 year-old can sit still through a Zoom meeting, think again. “Developmentally, children under 12 years old may not be socially or developmentally ready for Zoom,” says Dr. Lis. So if your child is fidgeting through the session (or just flat-out refuses to attend), you should let them skip the Zoom session and try again another time.
7. They’re Tired Of It
If you thought that it was just you who was tired of Zoom, think again. While having almost unlimited access to a computer seems like a kid’s dream come true, there truly is such a thing as Zoom burnout. “From being bored to not using the technology correctly, there is a lot to consider,” says Dr. Courtney Bolton, PhD, a child and family psychologist. “This can lead to Zoom fatigue.” If your kid is clocking too many hours online, you can always curtail it so that your child doesn’t always have an impending Zoom meeting.
8. They Get Nervous
Think about how kids interact with each other. It involves lots of playing, talking, and even touching. Now, strip all of that away and sit them in front of a screen. Is it any wonder why your kiddo hates Zoom? “Classroom insecurities are magnified in hi-definition in Zoom group calls,” says Sally Baker, an award-winning senior licensed therapist in London. “There is no sitting at the back of class or sitting with one’s best friend who helps make a child feel more brave.” Try to prepare your child prior to their video call and help answer any questions that they have. That way, they’ll be more prepared in case they get called on.
9. They Can’t Read Body Language
So much of how we communicate is done rarely through what we say, but through our body language. But if everyone is sitting (somewhat) still in front of their computer, your child can’t read what’s really going on — and that can be uncomfortable. “When we video chat, we can’t tell if a person is clenching their fists, shaking their leg or sitting calmly,” says Dr. Bolton. “Often, people project and speak louder on video chats than in person to ensure they are heard.” And that can be really scary for young children and cause them to hate Zoom.
10. They Don’t Know How To Interact
Kids communicate with each other in the cutest of ways. Thing is, when your child is forced to communicate in an unfamiliar way (such as on a Zoom call), it might make them feel awkward. “Consider what play looks like offline; for younger children, it’s often based around an activity,” says Dr. Bolton. “When you take that away and put a video screen in front of your children, it’s not that they are shy, per se, but it asks a lot of them to entertain their friends, and it’s not developmentally appropriate to put them in that position.”
11. They Find It Boring
It’s challenging to entertain kids even on the best of days. And more often than not, Zoom isn’t all that interesting. “You have to find what holds children’s attention and attention span,” says Dr. Bolton. “Many young children can only chat for a few minutes before needing to move on to another task.” You might ask your child’s teacher to trim the length of Zoom meetings if they’re droning on too long, or see if your child can go into a breakout room with a smaller group for more individualized attention.
12. They Feel Like They Don’t Have An Option
Just because your child’s Zoom meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes doesn’t mean that they have to be stuck there the entire time. “Let your child lead,” says Dr. Bolton. “If they are ready to get off of Zoom, don’t force them to stay on.” Instead, teach your child how to give their goodbyes and leave the meeting. You can always email the teacher afterwards and explain your child’s quick exit.
13. They’re Afraid To Be Called On
It’s always nerve wracking when you’re waiting to be called on in class. Now, magnify that by 50 when you’re facing down the rest of your classmates in a Zoom call. “Your child’s fear of being overlooked is matched with their fear of being asked to contribute,” says Baker. “They fear they will somehow incite derision from the rest of the group by making a faux pas during their moment in the high-lighted square.” So assure your child that it’s okay not to know an answer, or to take their time when formulating a response. If your child is young, you might even want to sit next to them during the call to comfort them.
14. They Don’t Like People Looking At Them
Having an audience of people looking at you can be unnerving for anyone, but especially so for small children. “The most common reason kids hate Zoom is because they don’t like people staring at them, especially not close up,” says Dr. Carole Lieberman, MD, a psychiatrist and bestselling author. “They feel self-conscious about how they look or even how the room looks behind them.” To help, you can position your child so that they don’t feel so close to the screen, or switch up their surroundings so that their background is more beautiful and not, say, their bedroom.
Whether we like it or not, Zoom calls are quickly becoming an everyday part of our lives. Preparing your child for them as best as possible can help reduce stress—for both of you.