I’m a mom with a teenage son, and like most parents, I found myself wondering how and where to draw the boundaries in the new shelter-in-place environment created by the Coronavirus pandemic. My son has a close-knit group of friends, and they all have varied activities but they gather to support each other and just plain hang out all the time. Men’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse, women’s basketball, men’s volleyball – they’re always at each other’s games supporting their friends.
The pandemic stopped all of that.
For a short time, I felt like my son was withering in front of my eyes. We were all fearful of the illness that was pervading our world. His school had been taken away. His friends had been taken away. Then one night I heard him shouting in the other room: “Red barn! Red barn!” Turns out he was playing Fortnite with his friends. Headsets on, miles apart but connected online, they were laughing and competing again.
I’m grateful that I’ve been working with the Connected Camps team, and I knew that this online social connection was exactly what these kids needed. When he and his friends started gaming every night, I didn’t freak out that my son might become addicted to games and glued to his screen. Instead, I’ve been able to embrace the reality that, for my son, hanging out online playing games with friends feels like hanging out at a basketball or volleyball court.
Yes, homework and classwork come before gaming. He still has chores and family commitments. But if the external world has stolen his ability to go to a ball game or get ice cream with his friends, I’m glad he’s able to hop on Fortnite and play and socialize with his friends, or create a new world in Minecraft that they can explore together.
If your kids are missing friends and looking for fun ways to connect with others this summer, Connected Camps has you covered! For older teens like my son, we just launched a Teen Minecraft Server. It’s free, and it’s open to teens ages 13-17. On the Connected Craft server, teens will survive, build, connect and play – it’s their choice. Our moderators periodically introduce events and challenges to the server, so it’s a fun place to go time and again.
Whether your kids are into Fortnite, Smash Ultimate, Overwatch, or other titles, our esports camps and clubs provide a way to improve skills and make new friends. They’re led by our experienced coaches, and they’re good for everyone from beginners to experienced players.
Especially during this pandemic, it’s important for everyone to connect with friends and peers. Connected Camps offers a unique program that enables teens to share their love of gaming in a supportive environment, as they mentor younger students under the guidance of our awesome counselors. We’re currently recruiting new members to join our Teen Volunteer Program, where they’ll develop professional skills and meet others with similar interests. Plus, they’ll earn community service hours for school at the same time.
These programs are geared to teenagers, but younger “tweens” have the same need for connection and play. One thing I love about Connected Camps is that it’s a safe place for kids. When your kids are a bit younger, they need a little more guidance online. I’ve always kept an eye on my kids’ online activity and known who they were with and what they were doing – just like I do for things they do in-person. But I still like the extra safety provided by Connected Camps.
Minecraft is so popular with kids ages 8-13, and Connected Camps has the free Kid Club Server just for them. Expert counselors are always online during Kid Club hours, and they make playtime fun and productive. While interacting in free Kid Club, youth also get mentorship in problem-solving, design, and STEM skills; advanced building techniques; and even web literacy and digital citizenship.
As we head into summer, we’re returning to normal life a bit, but many social restrictions are still in place. Kids are still wanting to be creative and be challenged, and they certainly want to connect with each other. I’m sure I’m not the only parent that will see my children spending lots of time online, playing, competing, building, and best of all, laughing with friends. That’s my hope!