12/03/13 by Rennie Detore
As much as technology passes the test as a natural societal progression and paramount for the improvement of our daily regimen, that's how much it has failed us.
You can't argue that the rise of the internet, social media and smart phones (and tablets) afford the general public a bevy of benefits, anything from up to the minute news, sports or weather, along with the ability to share information or simply chat with friends or family at a moment's notice, no matter where they might be.
Our lack of a passing grade comes in the form of technology as it relates to children and how the emergence of smart phones has quite frankly created a generation that struggles to engage in the very basic social skills that define day to day existence.
Everything from engaging in a meaningful conversation to shaking hands and looking a fellow person in the eyes falls victim to kids who feel more comfortable behind the confines of a smart phone, tablet or computer screen. This is, of course, opposed to face to face interaction or the ability to speak intelligently in front of a group or just one on one in a classroom setting.
Those shortcomings, to the blind eye, might be chalked up to the old adage of "kids being kids" or "they'll grow out of it; they're shy." In actuality this social deficiency translates into would be college students or adults that can't complete a job interview, internship or conduct a meeting in a boardroom with the kind of communication skills you would consider commonplace.
The result is individuals that can be classified as smart or intelligent based on grades and tests without a penchant for putting together a simple sentence or carry on a conversation.
Faye de Muyshondt is the acclaimed author of the renowned book "socialsklz :) for success: how to give children the skills they need to thrive in the modern world" and is a contributor to the Today Show. But it was her time teaching at New York University when Faye found minimal social skills among her students.
"Here I am seeing these brilliant students, academically, and so far behind socially and emotionally (and) who didn't have the social skills for success," says de Muyshondt.
That drastic gap between intelligence and feeling comfortable interacting and communicating, de Muyshondt says, is directly linked to low self esteem, and that the most valuable skill set is social interaction.
A skill set that is undoubtedly being ignored and carries serious repercussions.
"Think about previous generations and the amount of social interaction you had by the time you were 21 or 22 (years old) heading into the workforce is four times that of what a child would experience today," de Muyshondt says.
To prove that point, take a quick visit to Howcast.com.
Howcast.com is a web site that specializes, much like the name suggests, in "how to" videos that include anything from traveling with a baby to baking delicious pies that can satiate even the sweetest tooth.
Surely, Howcast.com doesn't have tutorials for something as second nature as "How to Shake Hands," right? You'd probably shake your head in disbelief or start to chuckle if that were the case.
Prepare to laugh; de Muyshondt was contacted by Howcast.com specifically to conjure up and create videos for the 18-25 year old demographic who was struggling with basic social skills. Some of her videos on the Howcast.com site include "How to Introduce Yourself" or "How to Make a First Impression."
And yes, shaking hands is an option
This commentary about communication and social interaction as it relates to technology and kids is a sad one. But, if you think about it, not that surprising.
If you have children, nieces or nephews, think about how they communicate or carry on a majority of their conversations. The act of saying "hello" or making eye contact has been supplanted by a signature smiley face made out of a colon and parentheses.
Realistically, most chatter or interactions occur through text messages or social media sites like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Today, the idea of kids talking to someone face to face is about as awkward as your grandparents "Skype-ing."
Inevitably, the conversation regarding children devolving socially turns to parents and essentially assessing blame. While mom and dad deserve their fair share of criticism, the fault is equal parts ignorance, ineptness and a reactionary one. It's hard to blame impressionable kids, given that technology is at their disposal. The key to the entire situation is equal parts education and accountability.
That lesson needs to be taught by the parents.
"Parents can't simply say how much time you have (to use your smart phone or the internet) but you have to have set rules," de Muyshondt states. "The use of the internet has to be the same as bedtime, as far as set structure or time."
Instead, parents tend to wait for something to happen and then begin to implement rules that aren't realistic, like eliminating television, the internet or taking away a phone for an extended period of time, only to give it back after a few days or weeks.
"Don't set up the rules after a 'disaster' happens," de Muyshondt urges.
She also is a proponent of not necessarily following your kids every move when it comes to social media but rather monitoring what they're doing while they're on it.
"If you're child is on Facebook, you be on Facebook. If your child is on Instagram, you be on Instagram," de Muyshondt suggests.
In essence, technology has a place as long as parents are up to the task of efficiently and effectively monitoring it but not in a passive way. Parents not only have to set up parameters but be an active part in the lives of their kids, as far as how technology is perceived, understood and, ultimately, used.
Parents who exhibit a lack of responsibility as far as observation of technology have more than just a hand or small part in cultivating kids who eventually transform into adults without the wherewithal to communicate on a competent level.
Technology isn't going away any time soon, and if history is any indication, it's only going to become more of a crutch in place of communication. The trick is to tame this technological beast before it translates into the form of a perfectly coherent and competent college graduate who emphatically battles the uncomplicated art of an introduction.
That's a pact that we should all literally be able to shake on.
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