My boy has four invisible friends that we’ve never met. In fact, he’s never met them either…not in real life.
Over time, my TBP has found a group of fellow video gamers that he plays with daily. Sometimes the four of them play together and other days it’s any combination of them.
They have learned to cooperate and have each other’s backs. They have negotiated and recovered from hurt feelings of being left out or betrayal. They stand up for each other and they say “sorry.”
All the things that mine wasn’t confident enough to say or do in person even when he wanted to.
They teach each other secrets and glitches and they test strategies that they’ve found on YouTube. They challenge each other to beat previous triumphs and they root each other for their effort.
Although we don’t know their “real” names, these are real relationships. Real social skills have developed because of these on-line play dates.
These play sessions are loud and filled with laughter, just like “real life” play dates. I just don’t have to bake cookies first or make sure the house is clean or worry that the dogs will bark or startle real live boys. I don’t have to think about awkward conversations with their parents or wondering when they will be picked up.
I don’t have to worry about playing during cold or flu season or if there’s a lice outbreak.
Online play dates have been great.
Sure there’s some down falls. You can’t invite these voices on the other side of the mic to a birthday party or playing at the nearby park.
They can’t go to the movies or walk and talk through the neighborhood. They can’t have Nerf gun fights or slumber parties.
They’re not always there when you need them, but right now, they’re there a lot. Especially, for a highly introverted kid like mine that only needs a bit of other kids.
We have taught our boy about internet safety. Apparently the other parents have to because no one asks about names or ages. We make myTBP unplug his mic every once in a while to hear the words and their before tween voices. We always stay within ear shot. He never knows when we will ask him to expose their high pitch boy voices and that’s our way of double checking on the content of the conversations.
I have grown to see just how important these invisible boys have become to my son.