Sunday, December 3, 2017

How does technology impact children’s social skills?

This Blog Was Written By
Justyna Kubicka

Children and teens, especially in this generation, have become very technology orientated. They grow up using, playing, and watching games/videos on phones and I-pads. But they are often on these devices for most of their day, and it becomes what they enjoy doing most. They forget about their board games and figures, and instead prefer and want to spend time on a phone or any other device. The American Academy of Pediatrics discussed a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation which revealed that 8-10 year olds on average spend about 8 hours a day using some form of the media and technology. They also showed that children over 10, including teenagers, spend about 11 hours a day with some form of technology.

There are many debates as to whether toddlers should even have access to technology, what age is appropriate for children to have these devices, how much time should they be allowed to spend on them (with reference to their age), and what affects it can have on them.

Nowadays the use of technology by children has become very extensive and could actually impact their social and speech skills. Here’s why:

The more a child spends their time on these devices, the less they interact with others, or read, or even play outside. Technology is decreasing kid’s interactions with one another, and their communication between each other. And even if they are communicating, it is more common for them to text one another than to call or speak in person. The Pew Research Center revealed that on average over half of teenagers in America, send more than 50 text messages a day, and over 1/3 send 100 or more a day. Over 66% of these teenagers showed that they were more likely to text their friends, rather than call. 

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist said: “There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating—it’s not like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.”
With technology, you’re missing a very important aspect of life– interaction with others. Texting is not the same as face-to-face communication; you’re missing all the important social cues and skills you would learn by interacting with one another in person. For instance, if I have very important news to share with someone, I would video call or even wait until I see them in person to tell them– if I was to text them I would miss out of their reaction. I would not be able to see any facial expressions or any non-verbal cues. Let’s use pregnancy as an example; would you text your partner this information, or wait until you can see them in person? I would assume most would go with the latter option, its more meaningful and you get the full reaction and facial and body expressions of the other person.

Of course, online communication is faster and easier, and is very helpful in some situations. But as children and teenagers grow up, it is very important for social interaction to be a big aspect of their life. You learn simple basic skills just by speaking to another person, that one would miss by sitting on their phone. Missing out on learning these communication skills can lead to children not wanting to speak to others, or having difficulty starting small talk, or finding communication with others unnecessary and awkward. Or they simply just find it hard to maintain and keep a conversation going.

There have been many parents discussing their children’s behavior changing because of new technological devices such as Alexa, an intelligent personal assistant. For instance, they claim that Alexa is making their children rude. Because Alexa does not need any “please” or “thank you” or any other good manners that parents teach their kids to say, it is not reinforcing this behavior and therefore making children believe that they don’t need to have good manners to get what they want or need. Because Alexa listens and does basically whatever one asks of her, the tone and other manners, are not needed for the job to be completed, which is why parents are scared of how their children might learn from this and use this behavior in other situations, like at school.

Teenagers and young adults now rely on technology heavily, which is nothing bad. However, children need to learn these important social skills when they’re still young. By allowing children to use technology, especially substantially, at a young age could inhibit their ability to learn these skills.

A study by Dr. Tamyra Pierce (“Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens”) done on high school students, asked them how much of their time they spent on their phones and how comfortable they are in face-to-face interactions. The results showed that there was a correlation between the two and that those who spent more time with technology, felt less comfortable in face-to-face scenarios.

Extensive technology use (overusing technology, relying on it very heavily during your day, and/or spending most if not all your day on it) does impact children’s and teenager’s social skills. They miss out on learning the codes and rules of language, understanding facial and hand cues, using eye contact, learning tone and meaning, being able to keep a conversation going, and overall feeling comfortable communicating and interacting with others.

It is interesting to see how technology can have such a huge impact on your life, in both good and bad ways.
What are your thoughts on this argument? 
Do you agree? Disagree? 
Any arguments for or against this that I have not mentioned? 
What do you believe to be the right age for children to start using technology?

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