Tech Tips for Zooming with Kids
Shared with permission from Pastor Dan Schrock, with adaptions by Anna Groff
To ensure that your online Sunday school classes and other activities using Zoom go as smoothly as possible, try to follow these guidelines.
1. Type of equipment:
- A computer is better than a tablet or a smartphone. You will be able to see other people much better if you have a larger screen.
- A wired connection to the internet is better than a wireless connection. Wired connections are always more stable and give you a faster internet speed. A stable, fast connection leads to better video and sound quality.
- Earbuds with an in-line microphone generally work ok. A headset (headphones plus a microphone) is even better because it provides higher quality sound.
- A headset plugged into your device is better than Bluetooth (though Bluetooth devices usually work ok).
- As a last resort, use your device’s built-in speaker and microphone.
2. No matter what device you use, place it on a stable surface (like a desk or tabletop) so it won’t move during the Zoom meeting. When your device jiggles, it distracts others who want to see and hear you clearly. You may also encourage the children or youth in your class to do the same. (One caveat to this: it can be fun to try new things with video for short periods to time with children, for example, speeding up the camera, appearing in the frame in surprising places, or even turning the camera upside down.)
3. Show your love for children by positioning your device so the webcam is at the same level as your eyes. They don’t want to look up your nose or down on top of your head!
4. If children have problems hearing each you, your microphone controls might be muted. Check your headset’s controls; your software’s controls (e.g., within Zoom, Skype, etc.); your computer’s master volume control.
5. If you’re making a Zoom meeting, please use either Firefox or Chrome as your browser. Browsers like Edge or Opera may or may not work. Safari is usually fine.
6. Before the Zoom meeting, pay attention to how you and your background look on camera. Consider having interesting art, a bouquet of flowers, a candle, or a stuffed animal in the background.
7. After Zoom starts, hide yourself on your own screen so you can focus completely on the other person(s). This eliminates getting distracted by your own face. Young children, on the other hand, often enjoy seeing themselves on Zoom and it can help them feel engaged, so allow them to see their own faces—and be open to seeing them make silly faces.
8. Youth may or may not want to share video. Be open to either possibility and allow flexibility for individuals to join video calls in ways that make them feel comfortable and safe.
9. Mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking. This prevents other people from hearing extraneous sounds in your room that could make it harder for them to hear the person who’s speaking. If you’re using Zoom, the mute button is probably on the lower left corner of your screen. When you want to speak, unmute yourself or make some kind of hand gesture to signal your intention to speak. Depending on the ages and abilities of the children, you may invite them to do the same.
10. Ask questions to assess the children/youth’s understanding and engagement—whether or not their videos are on. Allow them to respond via chat, giving a real thumbs-up, or the emoji “reactions” in Zoom.
11. Consider short and sweet online gatherings. For the youngest, 20 minutes is plenty. For elementary ages, 30 minutes. For other kids, 45 minutes to an hour. Even adults struggle with engagement during Zoom meeting that last longer than an hour.
12. Be encouraged that many of us are new to this kind of ministry. Each class with go more smoothly as the fall continues. Patience, flexibility, and openness are key!