Across the country, tens of thousands of kids with serious illnesses miss months of school each year. While they may have left hospital, many find themselves stuck at home, unable to connect with their friends. Unaddressed, this can seriously impact development, wellbeing, and mental health.
At MissingSchool, we love to celebrate community wins in keeping sick kids connected. We have a little win of our own to share.
Last week we launched the first in our series of Fact Sheets* – short, sharp evidence-led pieces for families, educators and health practitioners.
Because meaningful friendships are essential for meaningful recovery, our first Fact Sheet* takes a peek into extending friendships in the digital world to strengthen social connections beyond the hospital bed and classroom.
Digital connections – more than just scrolling through social media (which may worsen feelings of isolation) – include multiplayer video games, social video calls, telepresence technology and regular texting.
All these digital connections play a part in helping sick kids stay in touch with their friends, nurture their social life, and feel less alone. For example, during pandemic lockdowns, researchers found that staying in touch with friends online was valuable in staving off feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Researchers have also found that video games, in particular, push back against symptoms of mental illness. Games don’t have to be educational to be beneficial. They can be valuable to sick kids in:
- building a sense of normalcy and control in intimidating environments
- developing and building friendships that can convert to in-person ones
- providing an escape to a more familiar, fun, and enjoyable world
- supplementing interactions severed throughout treatment
- easing or distracting from the pain of physical or mental illness.
So, just as puzzle games help to build hand-eye coordination and critical thinking, action games can help immerse sick kids in a more positive and exciting world than the one they are currently experiencing.
While online connections are not a straight substitute for face-to-face connections, safe digital connections should be considered part of the toolkit for helping seriously sick kids stay connected and giving them opportunities to fill a critical gap in their lives – play.
”My 10 and 12 year old are chatting and playing an online game right now and are 175kms apart. It keeps them connected. I can listen in and hear them talking strategy and content. They communicate like this for an hour or more. In just a FaceTime call they run out of news and the conversation dies within 10 minutes.” ~ Parent
If you’d like a copy of the Fact Sheet email us at email@example.com. We’d love to get your feedback. *References are available on request.
Our connection to our community is vital, and it would be impossible for us to stay the course without your incredible support.
There are many ways to help:
- follow along and cheer us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
- share this newsletter with your family, friends, or colleagues so we can reach more sick kids, and
- donate towards getting a seriously sick child back into their classroom.
Every action moves us closer to the finish line: a world where every sick child is seen and heard.
Let’s keep connecting.