You can’t deny it. Technology has changed the landscape of our modern culture, and it comes with a price.
Look around, and you’ll see that the bulk of leisurely communication happens through a screen: online gaming, texting, video chat, and other social media platforms. According to Tara Tuttle, LMHC, a staff therapist with Seasons Counseling of Michiana, communicating through these methods limits a child’s ability to practice many necessary social skills, like empathy, reading body language, and talking in real-time.
“Children today have less opportunity for face-to-face interactions because of screen time,” expressed Tuttle. “This decreases their comfort with in-person interaction, leading to fewer deep and meaningful connections.”
Tuttle explained that attachment theory suggests that mammals are a very sociable species, seeking comfort and security with others. “The strategies we use to communicate with others as children become the strategies we use as adults to create a social support network, express our emotional needs, and to give and receive love. The degree to which an individual can successfully achieve these tasks depends in part on their level of effectiveness with social skills,” she said.
Social skills are the strategies used to effectively interact with others. These include the use of assertiveness rather than aggression, knowing how to make friends, being able to listen to directions, practice empathy, resolve conflict, set boundaries and respect others’ boundaries, understand another person’s perspective, express ones’ emotional needs, and read body language cues.
“Social skills aren’t only necessary for learning how to feel connected to other people,” Tuttle continued, “but sometimes, they’re necessary for knowing how to be assertive and practice healthy boundaries. Teaching a child the way to respond to a bully at school becomes the way that child responds as an adult to an overbearing mother-in-law, a coercive significant other, or an offensive coworker.”
Tuttle shared these must-dos when helping your child develop effective social skills:
- Limit screen time for the whole family.
- Encourage more face-to-face interactions with friends and family.
- Practice the use of eye contact whenever the opportunity arises.
- Practice role-playing social scenarios to teach kids appropriate ways to respond to different situations, such as bullying, making a friend, or conflict resolution.
- Create a story with your child and their toys mirroring strong and appropriate social skills.
- Help children understand their own emotions and communicate about them effectively.
- Provide children the language to express themselves in the moment by saying things like, “you are angry right now; this is frustrating,” “it’s very disappointing that you didn’t get what you wanted,” and “are you feeling embarrassed?”
- While reading picture books together, point to different characters with varying facial expressions and asking how they might be feeling and why.
While technology can be a great tool and fun entertainment, it will always be very important for children to develop face-to-face social skills. These tips can help you make sure your child has successful interactions at school as they grow up and as an adult.