“Mom, can I call Greg to see if he can play?”
“Sure, hon, I can pick him up or drive you over in about 15 minutes.”
“Oh no, I mean on xbox.”
Virtual playdates have replaced real playdates for many tweens.
I suspect there are multiple reasons behind this shift.
1) Kids schedules are so full these days that playdate time is rare and at irregular hours. It’s impractical to go over to a friends house at 8:15 at night. Even if itwere a more reasonable hour, travelling back and forth would eat up most of the available time. However, a text message followed by a few buttons pushed the console, and you’ve only lost 5 minutes of precious xbox-ing time.
2) Life is “better” online. It’s sad, and it shouldn’t be true, but for many children (and adults), it is. Whether it’s virtual football or dodgeball or Call of Duty or even some free online time waster, kids can do things they cannot do in real life. The adventure and freedom is alluring, and so too is the ability to be someone you’re not. That slow, weak, unathletic kid can be a beast in Madden Football. The last boy off the bench can be an MVP in NBA 2K10. The girl who think her interests are too ” tomboy-ish” can be whoever she wants to be online. Opportunity and real-life ability is no issue in the online world.
3) Imperfections are hidden. Another sad one, I think, but the boy who stutters can simply play without a microphone or textchat instead of speaking. The child with a wart or a scar or a body they view as less than ideal, can be someone else. Have you ever looked at the avatars kids create for themselves? They are (literally) right out of the comic books in terms of the sterotypes and ideal forms depicted.
To be fair, I don’t mind the occasional online playdate. It is sometimes the only convenient way for kids to get together due to time or distance. With proper monitoring the time can be fun and safe (just as with a real life playdate). I just hope that it never fully replaces the real thing. We don’t need a world like that in Bruce Willis’ Surrogates.