In a world of technological innovation and interconnectedness, critical learning of essential life skills is increasingly consigned to apps and the internet.
Children aged eight to 18 average over seven hours per day of screen time, often while accessing multiple forms of media and social networking sites simultaneously.
Add on an extra one hour and 35 minutes of texting and today’s tweens and teenagers are spending over nine hours per day on digital devices.
To avoid translating this technological consumption into total digital dependence, help your child develop the following eight life skills.
Yes, GPS is widely used and easily available - as long as the battery is charged, and your device has service. Teaching kids to navigate using landmarks, maps, a compass, and by estimating distance is essential when technology isn't available. The effect of reliance on GPS has yet to be fully realized, but it's possible that GPS dependence could deprive children of sensory feedback that fosters spatial awareness.
Though teens and adults default to texting and emailing, the ability to talk on the phone remains essential. The ability to memorize phone numbers, make appointments, and conduct professional and appropriate conversations are critical interpersonal skills that kids need to practice.
Handwriting has vastly suffered from technological convenience that no longer requires us to physically write. The common core program implemented across 45 states does not even incorporate old-fashioned cursive. Yet the ability to write, legibly, is integral for learning first and foremost how to read and communicate, skills which are then transferred to keyboard typing.
The US Postal Service indicated that in 2010, US homes received only one personal letter over seven weeks, whereas nearly 30 years ago, the average was one every two weeks. Letter writing is inherently a more time consuming and painstaking process, devoid of grammar and spell check. However, a handwritten letter is a valuable, more permanent communication tool that can convey a greater range of emotions and genuine appreciation of relationships.
The ability to find information, whether it’s looking a word up in the dictionary or researching information at the library, is an integral skill lost to a generation dependent on Google for instant answers. Yet, traditional research can offer more thorough, authoritative information. In addition, it encourages kids to explore different ideas and resources.
Nowadays, it's easy to take for granted the social skills derived from just interacting with the world. Even ordinary social experiences like going to the grocery are replaced by online shopping and ordering take-out with just a few clicks. Children’s increased interaction with non-reciprocal devices prevents them from learning important social skills.
Face-to-face interactions, whether dinner conversation or an awkward elevator ride, are increasingly more difficult and uncomfortable when we depend on devices to avoid socializing. The ability to read social cues and nonverbal communication is also negatively impacted when a child is not engaged in social interaction and conversation, which can ultimately lead to depression, anxiety, and exclusion.
Though similar to interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence is a separate skill for adults and children alike that suffers in this progressively technological era. Where social media has broken down barriers of communication, identifying emotions and developing empathy becomes more difficult to internalize, especially when self-esteem is linked to ‘likes’.
Teaching kids how to manage feelings and stress, to foster a sense of self, and problem solve are a few components of emotional literacy. Lower levels of emotional intelligence have also been connected to higher instances of bullying behavior. Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Celebrities Read Mean Tweets’ highlights this coldness of modern technology and distancing of words and emotional impact.
Outdoor play, which provides general health and psychological benefits in addition to greater academic success, is also related to an evolving life skill that even adults have to learn: disconnecting in the digital age. A study conducted in South Korea involving over 1,000 children between 10-15 years old reinforced the importance of the skill. Kids’ digital dependency, the potentially harmful ‘over-use and abuse’ of the internet, lessened with more time spent outdoors.
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