In the age of modern technology, many children and teenagers are using the internet to make friends and international connections. In fact, Common Sense Media reports that adolescents spend as much as nine hours online every day. But allowing children unfettered access to the internet can feel scary for many parents. But there is good news; the solution to making connections across continents and cultures with minimal risk is a simple and classic one: help your child find a penpal.
How to Find a Penpal
There are many programs available that allow children to find penpals from all around the world, allowing them to learn about different cultures, and even different languages. The Building Cultural Bridges program connects American children with Namibian children, allowing them to experience and learn from the differences and similarities between their lives. This program even facilitates a video meeting of the two students after a few correspondences. But a penpal doesn’t necessarily have to be someone from across the world who your child has met. A cousin or friend’s child of a similar age who lives in a different state makes a great penpal. Additionally, if your child meets someone they connect with while at a summer camp or traveling with the family, this could be a great opportunity to encourage a penpal relationship. Connecting with the parents of the child can help ensure that both parties feel comfortable with exchanges.
For a parent, the logistics of your child having a penpal might seem like it would add a little extra to your plate. Making sure there are always envelopes and stamps around and making frequent trips to the post office could feel like adding a few extra errands to your already busy schedule. But modern technology is your friend in this sense. OnlineStamp helps you learn how to print stamps online, and with online shopping platforms, envelopes and stationary can be on your doorstep with barely a moments notice. As far as the trips to the post office, if you have a mailbox within walking distance from your house, use it as an opportunity for you and your child to connect and get some exercise.
The Importance of a Penpal
Besides the friendships and cultural exposure that can develop from a penpal exchange, writing regular letters, if done by hand can have many positive effects. Writing by hand involves more parts of the brain than does typing on a computer, making it effective for stimulating creativity. Writing is also effective in calming the brain and nerves, and even easing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Writing with pen and paper also eliminates the various distractions that come from having the internet at your fingertips while typing, allowing your child to focus on one task that builds brain power. Additionally, for a child with dyslexia, writing, particularly in cursive is thought to combat symptoms, by improving brain function and memory. The more often you practice writing, the better the results, aiding school performance and future communication success.
Having a penpal, whether they are across the world, or simply a few towns away, is an exciting chance for children to learn about the lives of others and make important connections. The opportunity for parents to monitor their child’s safety is an added benefit. Help your child find an exciting penpal for a classic experience.