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Teaching Kids How to Make and Win Friends in the Digital Age

written by: Deb Killion • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 2/18/2015

One of the skills kids need most is how to make and win friends. There is no cookie-cutter pattern for making and keeping friends, but there are some specific social skills you can teach them.

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    Making Friends in the Digital Age Skills learned in the early grades about how to win friends and show respect to others can cross over into other areas of their lives, and the skills they learn can benefit them from now on.

    With the advent of the Internet and social media taking such a forefront, and all of the technologies in place now that allow us to connect with others, the way that we communicate has changed. But the basic principles of friendship are still the same.

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    Old Advice Still Has Merit in a New Age

    In his famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie spoke about the basic principles of winning people over by smiling, listening more, being cordial, and being open to other’s conversations and lives. While the way that we communicate has changed and technology is sometimes “between us,” it can also bring people closer.

    With kids, though, you will want to exercise more vigilance and caution in terms of how much they are using online chat and social media so that they don’t communicate with the wrong people.

    That being said, here are some strategies you can teach your young person that will help them make and win friends in this digital age.

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    Tips for Making Friends in the Digital Age

    1. Use social media and chat only with people you know in the real world. This is not only safer, but it also ensures that your child is communicating with kids he or she wants to be better friends with in the real world. This strengthens their real world relationship as well. Technology can bring people closer when you already know them in real life.

    2. Use media to share your life with others. Thanks to the advent of smart devices and Instagram, as well as other tools, people can instantly share things with their friends. Special moments can be made richer by sharing it and posting it where friends can see it. Kids can share pictures of their new bike with their online and real world friends, post vacation pictures and special sporting events. One of the key aspects of making friends is self-disclosure, so digital media and online sharing has helped this immensely.

    3. Make the conversation about the other person. Kids have a lot to talk about these days, but remind them to focus the conversation on the other person. By focusing more on the other person, they feel you respect them and want to hear what they are saying. This enriches the friendship and shows you care about their life.

    4. Do things for friends to help them. This old premise is still true. If you help people, they will appreciate it and will often return the favor. Teach kids that making the friendship about what they can do for their friend will pay back in spades over time.

    5. Be a good listener. As Carnegie said in his book, listening is one of the most important things you can do to show respect to a friend or business associate. Really listening to what others are talking about shows you want to hear what they are saying and that you value them.

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    Finally, remind kids that in our digital age, it’s easy to equate friendship with technology. We are instantly connected to everyone in our circle with an easy click of a button. But technology should only be seen as a tool, and not the most important aspect of making and winning friends.

    With practice, kids too can become more tuned in and sensitive to the changing environment of the online world, and they will learn to adapt the way they interact with others in appropriate ways. Digital media has changed communication and interaction and the way we relate, but it has not changed the basic principles inherent in getting and keeping good friendships. And that is a skill we need for life.