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I’m worried my toddler will fail Zoom preschool

From its start in 1906, A Bintel Brief was a pillar of the Forward, helping generations of Jewish immigrants learn how to be American. Now our columnists are helping people navigate the complexities of being Jewish in 2020. Send questions to [email protected]

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Less screen time is more

Dear Bintel,

How do I work on video chat etiquette with young children? Google Meet for my daughter’s pre-K class is generally disastrous — she doesn’t listen, never knows what’s going on when she’s called on and frequently wanders off. Even the very, very basics of video chat — say, a call with Nana and Grandpa — seem to escape her. I constantly have to remind her to look at the camera, not wander off, listen to what people are saying and respond. What can I do?

— Google Meet Mom

Have you reread this question recently?

I’ll give you a moment to go back and do so.


Do you hear how absurd it all sounds now? “Video-chat etiquette”? For a preschooler? Since when is how to look into a screen “properly” the thing we want to teach 4 year-olds?

Yes, it’s a terrible time that’s been dominated by screens, and yes, we want our children to “succeed,” whether this means participating whole-heartedly in the Zoom art class or talking directly into the camera at Grandpa. But these are ridiculous — and, excuse me, borderline crazy — expectations.

My advice? Get her off the computer. Forget the stupid Zooms. They are wholly inappropriate for kids her age. Put her in a sandpit or the backyard. Give her some dried beans and a cupcake tray to play with on the floor of the kitchen. Do a puzzle with her. Dance around to Raffi. In Covid times, we seem to be forgetting that children need to explore and learn in a three-dimensional world and that Google Meet is, at best, a waste of everyone’s time, and at worst, teaching kids that they can control everything with their tiny fingers. (I’ve heard many elementary-aged kids say to each other: “I’m muting you.”)

If Nana is so eager to see her grandchild, set up Facetime so that Nana can watch the kid play in her own element. The last thing you should be doing is growing frustrated with a 4-year-old for wandering away from the computer during a meeting. After all, isn’t she doing what her parents and every other fully functioning adult wants to?

Abby Rasminsky is a writer living in Los Angeles. Got a question? Send it to [email protected]


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