I have been trying to master the use of a variety of electronic devices and programs over the last few months and as I've learned about them, I've found out about the amazing benefits they provide. I've also learned that it takes an enormous amount of time to learn and become an active participant. I began to wonder about how this is affecting our relationships with our families, friends, and children. I watch people as I travel and as I make my way around where I live, and it seems to me that people are talking face-to-face a lot less than they used to. It is also not unusual for me to see people texting while walking down the street, or even to see drivers texting while driving, at highway speeds of 70 mph and more! What I think we all should think about is this: When is the last time that you sat down to dinner, a cup of coffee, or just a conversation, that you did not check your phone for messages during that time? Once? Twice? Never?
I heard on the radio a few months ago about the owner of a small neighborhood restaurant, who was interviewed because of his view on this topic. Historically, his family-owned restaurant has been known as a great place for intimate conversation with companions, while at the same time savoring wonderful food! He said people don't even talk to one another anymore, let alone take the time to enjoy their food because they are so sidetracked by incoming messages. As a result, he began a voluntary system whereby guests check in their devices at the front desk, so they can have uninterrupted time to enjoy conversation with their spouse, date, children or friends and to enjoy their meals as they used to. I think it is a great idea, to at least once a day, check-in our phones and other devices. Then we can have a conversation and be total in the moment or "present" with the person we are with. Imagine how great it would feel for your children to have your undivided attention on what they have to say or do?
We know that warm and meaningful interactions between a parent and child are crucial to emotional development, language learning, and academic development. This was studied and proven to be true by the Hart and Risley research team out of Kansas back in the 1970s and 1980s. Hart and Risley found the variable that made the most significant difference in vocabulary and language development was the amount of time that the adults in the environment were talking to the children. This was corroborated by the research team at the Lena Foundation Institute in Colorado, and others. Hart and Risley would go so far as to say that when looking for a childcare or other program for young children or infants, once the safety and health requirements are met, it is important to look at the amount and type of talking that is going on between adults and children.
Bring this finding back to our current society, where face-to-face spoken language seems to be lost in the shuffle with everything else that is going on. I'm worried that it decreases the warm, interactive relationships between adults and children, and thereby leaves this generation of children with decreased levels of language and vocabulary, and the ability to communicate with something other than truncated words and emoji's. It seems there are a lot of things said and posted that most of them would normally never say about another person, but it's much easier to type something on a smart phone and hit "send," than to face a person when some of these things are said and actually see the hurt on their faces.
So what about this idea of checking in devices during mealtime and other times of the day? I challenge all of you to monitor the amount of time you are talking, texting, or browsing on Facebook, and other popular sites. Also, carefully monitor the amount of time children are doing the same thing. How much time is this taking away from interactions with children, friends and spouse or just getting outside for a jog, or going to the playground with the kids,, or just breathing fresh air? I think heightening our awareness of the amount of time we spend is probably enough to get us started down the right road to change--or at least to think about it and become more aware.
©2-22-2018 Karen K Rossi, EdD., LSLS Cert. AVEd.