The use of technology can be good. It provides us with faster, more efficient ways to communicate with others. But could this efficiency actually be harming our ability to communicate with people face to face?

It’s probably safe to say we’ve all been guilty of sending a quick text to avoid a conversation we know will take up too much time or of sending an email to communicate something difficult to say in person. It’s tempting to take the easy way out and avoid unpleasant interactions this way.

However, not learning to communicate face-to-face, whether good or bad, is becoming a real problem for our young people. Educators are starting to notice how this deficiency is taking a toll on their students’ performance.

“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs,” said Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology in the UCLA. “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”

This subject began to capture my attention when instructors of higher education shared their observations regarding today’s students’ social skills and social behavior. They’ve noticed many students do not make use of the office hours they provide to assist them in the course. texting coupleInstead, they receive e-mails sentlate at night, long after the instructors have gone to bed, and in most instances, the content has to do with issues encountered for the next meeting date.

Their concerns also had to do with the decline in the students’ social skills and their drama because of the popular texting language. Most of the students use abbreviations that are not fully understood by the professors. When attempts are made to call the student for clarification, the professors’ voice mail messages frequently go unanswered. This seems to be good evidence of the decline in the art of communication.

One of the instructors said that he did not text his students. He said, “My students are very smart. They are not shy. But they can’t look me in the eye and not having the personal skills is hard for them. They are almost lost when they can’t text. It’s like they don’t know how to talk with anyone. I see kids go out to eat and they will be sitting at a table, instead of talking to each other, they are texting each other.”

ARE WE BEING OLD-FASHIONED OR ARE THERE ACTUAL REASONS TO BE CONCERNED?

On the academic side
* Texting reduces the need for in-depth conversations.
* Texting dumbs down spelling and grammar. Shortcuts for spelling, punctuation, and emoticons replace thoughtful communication.
* Texting leads to deficiencies in basic language skills and doesn’t help children and teenagers learn the necessary writing and communication skills they need for college and the workplace.
* Texting diminishes the importance of body language in our communication.

On the social side
There are two very important times in a child’s life were communication is really important.
As preschoolers they are picking up new social and cognitive skills at a stunning pace.
Being glued to an iPad would impede that.

In adolescence, this is as equally important time for rapid development. Teenagers’ use of technology can interfere with their development of social skills – anxiety and lower self-esteem could develop.
Technology may be keeping children from developing friendships

Learning how to make friends is a major part of growing up and friendship requires a certain amount of risk-taking. It is also true of maintaining friendships.

When there are problems to be faced, big or small, it takes courage to be honest about your feelings and then hear what the other person has to say.

According to Dr. Steiner-Adair, “Part of healthy self-esteem is knowing how to say what you think and feel even when you are in disagreement with the other people or it feels emotionally risky”.

PARENTS HAVE A WHOLE LONG LIST OF CONCERNS ABOUT CHILDREN USING TECHNOLOGY:

* Will they be able to hold their own in conversations?
* Will they be hurt by a cyber bully?
* Are they sexting?
* Will their homework suffer because they are texting a hundred times a day?
* Can they handle spontaneous social interactions?
* Are they using their phone to stare at it every time they don’t want to make eye contact while waiting in line?

DO WE HAVE A NON-VERBAL LEARNING DISABILITY NOW?

Before Instagram teens would be chatting on the phone, or in person when hanging out at the mall. They were experimenting, trying out skills and succeeding and failing in real-time interactions that they are missing out on today.

* Body language
* Facial expressions
* The smallest kind of vocal reactions were visible.

Now, their new form of communication creates a nonverbal learning disability:

* Most of their communication is done looking at a screen
* Most of their communication is not looking at another person
* Intent becomes misinterpreted
* Mis-intention often leads to ‘drama’ and friendship problems.
* Studies show that homework is interrupted and children become distracted when they receive notifications of a new chat messages, texts, or emails.

WHAT ELSE DOES THIS NEW COMMUNICATION IMPACT?

Safety On The Roadways – What safe drivers report!

Liberty Mutual, the second-largest property-casualty insurer in the U.S., conducted the survey of 1,622 11th and 12th graders across the country with SADD, a national youth education and activism organization.

* Nearly half of teens surveyed said they check their phone while driving.
* About 88 percent of teens who consider themselves safe drivers report using phone apps on the road.
* A “quick toss” of a message at the red light is not considered distracting.
* More than a third of teens reported texting behind the wheel to coordinate hang-outs.
* More than a third of teens reported texting behind the wheel to give updates to people about plans to meet.

Young drivers have “pressures of being always connected and always on, as a lifestyle,” William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, said in an interview. “This leads to dangerous behaviors and dangerous decisions behind the wheel.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that younger, tech-savvy drivers make up 27 percent of distracted drivers in fatal crashes. They also make up the largest portion of distracted drivers. Possibly more alarming are the results of a poll by the Ad Council, showing that 42 percent of teens said they are very or somewhat confident they can safely text while driving.

WHAT SHOULD PARENTS DO TO MINIMIZE THE RISKS WITH TECHNOLOGY?

First of all it’s up to the parents to set a good example of what healthy computer usage looks like.
Parents can be just as guilty as their child of being distracted by their technology. Even checking email is often done as a nervous habit.

Establish a technology-free zone in the house and technology-free hours when no one uses their phone, tablet, or laptop. That means no email, no calls, no screens.

Kids need to see our faces and they need our full attention. They need to know they can talk to you about their day and that you are available. Know what social media accounts your child has and friend or follow them on each. Get them involved in something that they’re interested in like sports or music or volunteering – anything that sparks an interest and gives them confidence.