“We’re beginning to see toddlers and kindergartners who know how to use tablets and mobile phones, but they don’t know how to hold a pencil.” notes author Arlene Pellicane.
“That’s a problem.”
Pellicane’s latest book, entitled Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids In A Screen Driven World chronicles some of the latest trends in social media, and what the use of that media is producing. Yet Pellicane has her own observations on the matter as well.
“My husband and I were at a child’s birthday party recently and my husband met another parent there.” she explained, “The entire time they spoke, the man was staring at his mobile telephone and they never made eye contact. That’s how bad the problem is.”
Pellicane says that in some cases the evolution of technology has taken a toll on our relationships. “We used to see people gathered around a big tv set” she says, “but now our devices go in our pockets or purses and we’re separated by that.”
Pellicane ties the over-saturation of social media directly to what one might regard as a virtue deficit in our culture:
“Research suggests that college students today are 40% less empathetic than college students of twenty years ago. A lot of that is because when you’re messaging somebody via the internet, you don’t see the feelings that it produces on the other end when you say something mean. As a result kids and young people are being weakened in their social skills.”
Pellicane suggests a few simple steps that parents can take to put limits on “screen time” in their own homes, among them:
1. Set a screen time curfew – make a house rule that all devices go off after 10 pm, for example
2. Set aside limited time to check social media accounts – get caught up on social media accounts only during specific, scheduled portions of your day, and stay away from the accounts the rest of the day
3. Trade screen time for other activities – make weekends a time for “half days” on social media; cut-back on social media by half an hour a day and use that time for reading, outdoor activities, and other non-electronic activities