Ever wonder how many parents get the same one word answers that you get from your child when they ask their kids the all to familiar question…”how was your day?” I’m not a betting man but I’d wager the percentage is fairly high.
Is there one key factor in the mindset of todays youth that leads them to the inability to express themselves, in real authentic face to face conversation? I’m of the thought of no….that there isn’t just one key factor but many.
Is technology at the root of the lack of interpersonal communications in today’s youth? It certainly plays a large part, that much is certain.
Here is an abstract from a recent study done by Elon University:
Recent technological advancements have had a drastic impact on the way individuals communicate. In this research, previous studies were analyzed, field observations were conducted, and an online survey was administered to determine the level of engagement individuals have with their cell phones, other technologies and with each other in face-to-face situations. Findings suggest that technology has a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. Despite individuals’ awareness of the decrease of face-to-face communication as a result of technology, more than 62% of individuals observed on Elon’s campus continue to use mobile devices in the presence of others.
It’s no great mystery that kids in the 14-25 range, who have had access to electronic devices in their hands from an early age, are having some serious challenges in talking with someone, let alone clearly communicating an idea to their peer, parents or teacher.
There are arguments from research studies on both sides of the equation.
Little by little, technology has become an integral part of the way that people communicate with one another and has increasingly taken the place of face-to-face communication. To be clear, I’ve been guilty of this myself. Due to the rapid expansion of technology, many individuals fear that people may be too immersed in this digital world and not present enough in the real world. It’s overwhelming how screen time has replaced face time (not the apple face time!) in todays youth.
Whats at stake here? Plenty!
Being a parent of two boys I see a lot first hand. When I have to repeatedly ask my kids, “please let me see your eyes when we are talking” is a tad troubling. When I hear them reply, ” I can hear you dad at the same time I’m on my phone,” is equally troubling. Being connected means something so different today. Multi tasking means something so different today too. Being connected for todays youth is making sure they can access wi-fi. Being connected for me is sharing live, authentic conversations. Multi tasking for me is making a salad for dinner at the same time as making my lunch for work the next day. Multi tasking for kids today is being on snapshat and Instagram at the same time and oh ya, texting me from their room, “when is dinner ready?” I used to manage a youth baseball team and we’d go to many team dinners, where all my players would be at the same table and on on their cell phones.
I see the tremendous benefits from technology like everyone else does…to a certain degree. But when it comes to the presence of tech devices and the quality of real-life, in-person social interactions, I see a big problem that needs to be addressed. In a field experiment, researchers found that conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated as significantly superior compared with those in the presence of a mobile device. Kind of a no brainer moment, right?
Whether we are parents, educators, or part of the general public, I hope we can all agree that we want today’s youth to develop into the next generation of leaders at work and in their communities. This wont happen until they ditch their device (for a little while at least) and develop a life skill of knowing how to have clear, confident and impactful conversations, face-to-face.