As a pediatrician, it is my goal to treat the whole child, and that goes beyond their physical health. I want to know how they are doing in school, what stresses they are feeling and I also want to know about their habits – especially as it relates to social media, which is becoming a problem with today’s youth.
Not only are they getting too much “screen time” and not enough outdoors time in many cases, but communicating via text messages and social media is replacing face-to-face interaction and children are losing their ability to have a real conversation.
I once witnessed a 15-year-old boy who was texting with a female friend when he ran into her in public. As he walked past, he acknowledged her with a nod, but didn’t say a word to her. I began to realize how comfortable teens feel having a text message “conversation” but how completely awkward they feel actually speaking to one another.
Of course, communicating face to face is not something we automatically know how to do. It’s something we have to practice starting at a young age. We’ve all heard mothers reminding their children such instructions as to look the person in the eye when you’re talking to them.
Dangers of today’s ‘silent’ conversations
I am worried that the youth of today are losing valuable social skills.
When you have a face-to-face conversation, 55 percent of your message is body language. Body language gives us great insight into the thoughts of the other person. If you are having a conversation with someone via text, you can’t read their body language, nor can they read yours.
Therefore, they are bound to misunderstand something you said or worse yet, someone may say things that they would never say in front of someone. Because of this, many kids are losing their sense of what’s appropriate. This leads to relationships, especially between boys and girls, moving way too fast. There’s a natural awkwardness between a boy and a girl that keeps the relationship moving slower.
Back in the day when kids talked to each other on the phone, the parents could still essentially hear at least parts of a conversation and know who they were talking to. Now, with texting and other forms of social media, suddenly all of a child’s interaction becomes private and they are likely talking to people they don’t even know.
This is where parenting becomes so important. My advice to parents regarding social media is limit their children’s exposure and to lean towards what an older teen might consider invasion of their privacy. You need to tell them from the moment you give them a phone or iPad that you will be monitoring who they are talking to and what they are saying and websites they are viewing, and never stop doing that.
Lead by example
It is so important as parents for us to set a good example. Our kids see what we do and they are listening, even if you don’t think they are. If the phone rings while you are driving, say out loud ‘I can’t answer that while I am driving.’ It’s no different from telling them not to use drugs or alcohol. You have to show them it’s not allowed.
I highly recommend that parents set parental controls, not only on your computer or iPad but also on specific websites like You Tube. You want to prevent an accidental viewing of something inappropriate.Share this Article