How connected are we as a society? More than ever it seems. With advancements in technology we have information, news, communication, and entertainment readily available at all times. We live in a tech-driven world, where everything is high-definition, wireless, high-speed, handheld, and accessible to the touch.
At the same time, perhaps technology is leaving us out of touch. Today’s children who have been born into this digital age are affected by technology in much deeper ways than their parents and grandparents have been. Without an emphasis on the development of key social skills children may very well be out of touch with the world around them. Consider these Nielsen statistics for the United States:
In 2011 - 274 Million Americans had Internet access, which is more than double the number in 2000. 81 Billion minutes were spent on blogs and social networks. 48% of Americans now watch video online, but still traditional TV viewing increased by almost 3 hours a month last year.
What concerns does this raise about children’s development?
One question we could ask ourselves, is whether Facebook friendships are real friendships? Many experts suggest that even adults are becoming disconnected due to the “perceived relationships” they maintain through social media. We might also question, whether children are encouraged to experience the world, or have they become content with viewing it at home in high-definition?
Furthermore, how many children understand communication when many of their daily conversations are conducted via text? Perhaps the biggest void in children living in this digital society is the absence of key social skills that form the foundation for healthy and successful lives, as they grow.
Social Skills allow children to interact, communicate, and adapt. Whether at school, in the home or in social settings, these skills are essential for children to manage stress, cope with their feelings, handle criticism and develop relationships.
It’s part of your job as a parent to encourage the development of your children’s social skills and reinforce these efforts by modeling good behavior. At The UCLA Family Commons, we consistently hear concerns from parents about red flags they’ve noticed in areas like children’s self-regulation, assertiveness, emotional recognition or ability to navigate relationships. We applaud parents for addressing these concerns in a timely fashion, educating themselves and preparing their children for what lies ahead.
This is, of course, 2012. It may be difficult, unrealistic, and even a mistake to ban your children from all use of television, video games, or the Internet. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find healthy ways to get them unplugged and connected to social skills training that will truly keep them in touch with the real world they live in, now and in the future.