Have you ever sat and watched a young person texting? They will be sitting there, head down with an expressionless face, while what they are typing might be chock full of emotion or joy. That lack of expression is definitely a concern. They are being trained on how to interact by their phone and it carries over. This is one of the problems with texting. We must be mindful of our need to actually teach them face-to-face communication.
What are the true effects of social media and texting on our children? Will your son be able to look his future employer in the eye during a review and speak clearly? Effective communication comes from the inflection in our voice, our facial expressions, and our expressive body language that explain meaning. Technology is moving much faster than we can keep up with as parents and we need to consider the ramifications of what is being lost.
Is texting compromising your kids’ future? Here are some key elements to be mindful of as we guide our children into this new world of technological transformation.
1. Not Able to Appreciate Reality.
Our children carry their devices with them everywhere. They are at our dinner tables, in our churches, and in all social situations. The worry with this is that we are raising a generation of children unable to appreciate the here and now. Imagine a child standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, one of world’s greatest wonders, and their head down Tweeting about how they are at the Grand Canyon, without ever looking up. Make rules about when, where, and for how long devices can be present. It’s great to snap and post some photos and words about such an amazing wonder. Then, put it down and live in the moment.
2. Grow Impatient with Slower Communication.
Our children talk to each other via text in a fast, single-sentence method. They receive instant gratification, but the progression into an in-depth, give-and-take, productive human conversation rarely occurs. This creates an ever-increasing impatience with slower face-to-face communication. We need the skill of how to effectively communicate with each other on a level past single-sentence. Counter this by making sure your child has plenty of actual interaction with their friends and devise ways that require them to be without their devices when together. It’s not enough for two 10 year-old boys to have a campout in the tree house you built if all they are doing up there is texting other friends. Set the scene for real communication to happen naturally.
3. Improper Social Behavior.
This is perhaps the most disturbing category. It is so much easier to “break the rules” using technology. Cyber bullying of course has been well-documented and is a major issue. Not to be overlooked, however, is what your child feels is proper to say via text that he would never say out loud. A false sense of courage is provided when there is such an obvious wall between the people in communication. This is where ‘sexting’ happens, at much earlier ages than anyone believes, and destructive things are said without regard. The only way to combat this is to make it a regular conversation between parent and child of what the expectations are of them. That includes all texting and online communication. Random inspections of their devices should be routine and parents should always have the passwords to all of their children’s accounts. The one thing you can be sure of is that they are much better at this new world than you are, and they can and will find ways to outsmart you. As the saying goes, “Trust but verify.”
4. False Reality.
Something that is extremely enticing to vulnerable children is the opportunity to create a fake persona. Technology allows for a person to create new versions of themselves that have nothing to do with their actual reality. This stunts their maturity and keeps them in adolescence rather than moving into adulthood. They lose the ability to connect with others as their true self. What happens when they become adults and have to function in the real world? Again, face-to-face communication is key to developing self-esteem and and a true identity.
Huddle up with your kids tonight and teach them how to look a person in the eye when they are talking.