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A Less Empathetic Generation

Make sure your teen is spending time with friends in reality as well as virtually.

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A benefit of a family is that children learn the give and take of society -- how to interact with other people, the importance of the individual and the group, and how to communicate. However, with the inundation of technology in all facets of life, parents run the risk of raising a generation who can't relate to other people.

Children with unlimited gaming, computer and TV time may not get enough interpersonal face-to-face interaction needed to develop proper social skills. A Wall Street Journal article called this "silent fluency," the ability to read cues like tone, body language and facial expressions. E-mail and texts don't convey empathy, tone or subtext the way face-to-face or phone conversations do. While the effects are still being quantified, the digital generation is at risk to lose their silent fluency abilities.

Larry Rosen, a well-known psychologist, has studied the psychology of Facebook interaction and feels that while it can be good practice for introverted kids to get comfortable talking to peers, it is no substitute for real-world interaction. "Our study showed that real-world empathy is more important for feeling as though you have solid social support," he writes. "Although those who had more virtual empathy did feel more socially supported, the impact was less than the real-world empathy."

So, if your child seems to spend most of her time on social media or texting, encourage her to talk to or make plans with friends. Or at least, with you.

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