Do our conversation skills weaken as we continually connect — virtually and physically — with our digital devices? How does this always-connected environment affect our children and youth? Are conversational and empathy skills developing as they should?
Sherry Turkle describes these problems in Reclaiming Conversation, a book that relates how the individuals in many of her interviews note — uncomfortably so — that they are less and less able to carry on a conversation confidently. More worrisome, children, in general, appear to be less able to converse, put themselves in another individual’s shoes, and empathize with that person. Turkle backs up her assertions with evidence.
After the December holidays, lots of digital kids will begin using new handheld devices, but as these new gadgets come out of their boxes, parents need to update or introduce a family digital device action plan. A family’s plan is similar to the rules-of-the-road guide that is so critical to new drivers.
These days most flashy new smartphones, iPads, tablets, music players, computers, laptops, notebooks, and video games are connected to the exciting, but rough and tumble world of the Internet, and much of the time these devices are used in places where adults are not present. So sometime during the first week of gadget ownership – or better yet, as the devices come out of their boxes – parents and children need to sit together and review digital behavior and expectations.