Technology has become an integral part of our society at home, school and in our work places. We have become so reliant, on the convenience and how it can make our lives easier, but is that the whole truth? Our dependency has caused a lack of social skills in children and adults alike. Understanding what are social skills and their role in our lives should help us keep a balance between time spent using technology and face-to-face interactions.
What are social skills?
Social skills are the tools we use to interact with each other, which allows us to engage and adapt to verbal and non-verbal actions. These actions know as social cues help us to know what is acceptable or unacceptable in situations (Study.com, 2003-2016).
As we spend less time together we lose the ability to recognize tone of voice, facial expression, body language other social cues (Hosale, 2013, Study.com, 2016). Children and adults who spend little time together and more time with technological devices are limited in recognizing these cues.
As children immerse themselves in the use of devices (aided by devoted parents and teachers) with the best possible apps and/or games, you wonders what could possibly go wrong? They aspire to obtain the best educational tools for their children because the future depends on “digitally competent humans” (Hatched, 2011, p. 4). However, they lose sight of the development of social skills. Children with too much exposure to technology will become “socially stunted ” along with other challenges (Hatched, 2011). When children are given tools and devices with no rules and guidance they will use them to soothe, to avoid social situations, and to pass time, which puts them at risk socially.
As adults see the growing need to use technological devices at work and/or at home, the risk of its negative effect on their social well-being increases with more usage (Subrahmanyam, Kraut, Greenfield & Gross, 2000). How often do we take work home or spend most, if not all, of our evenings and weekends completing a task to meet a deadline etcetera. The choice to use or not to use is not a choice anymore and teachers are using technology in their classrooms to access content materials or to teach and learn. Parents are increasingly encouraged to use technology in their day-to-day lives and are making tools available to their children as well.
So what do you do?
All hope is not lost and overcoming the challenges of poor social skills as we engage with technology will need some dedication, commitment, and consistency. Using moderation along with the latter ideas will foster positive results. DeLoatch (2015), identified five key points to help obtain a balance.
- Monitor use. It is important that the adults know how and when their children are using technology. Have restrictions placed on certain sites and usage of time. Adults in turn need to be role models for the behaviour they hope to achieve. For example, set aside non-device times when all devices must be off and engage in face-to-face moments.
- Teach responsible usage. When children are posting information online, encourage them to establish their “Internet footprint” and talk about the effects of posting inappropriate content and not to share anything they are unsure about.
- Intentional use. Teachers should ensure that technology is not a substitute or reward for lessons but a tool to enhance teaching and learning.
- Be familiar. Teachers and parents alike should stay current in what children are involve in online to be able to ward off any problems.
- Offer alternatives. Teachers can offer alternative task such as reading the hard copy material, have one-on-one activities in-person or even change location of lessons. Parents can have game nights, or outdoors activities with children, giving some choices and chances to make decisions.
When time is spent in a face-to-face encounter children and adult will be able to develop and improve their social skills and be responsible about their technology usage.
DeLoatch, P. ( May 2, 2015). The Four Negative Sides of Technology. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/the-4-negative-side-effects-of-technology/
Hatch, K. E. (2011). Determining the Effects of Technology on Children. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1212&context=srhonorsprog
Hosale, S. (2013). 25 Negative Effects of Technology. Retrieved from http://roogirl.com/25-negative-effects-of-technology/
Subrahmanyam, K., Kraut, R. E., Greenfield, P. M., & Gross, E. F. (2000). The impact of home computer use on children’s activities and development. Children and Computer Technology, 10(2), 123-144. Retrieved from https://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/10_02_05.pdf