UNSOCIAL KIDS: The dying art of conversation

By - CTL
April 18, 2018

By Steve May, Copywriter and Director at Rockatansky.

We bang-on to kids about the importance of paying attention when someone is talking to you. It’s what you do. Eye contact. Acknowledgement. Reciprocal body language. Simple manners.

Yet, we’re taken aback when kids react with annoyance and aggression when we interact with them while they’re using social media. When really, they’re simply doing what we taught them: concentrate on the conversation.

Social media conversations never end, in the classic sense. Technology has allowed conversing to shift from a sprint to an ultra marathon.

A single thread of chat is now, well, infinite.

We can disappear, then reappear minutes, hours or days later, continuing without so much as a ‘Hi’. Phones are filled with fossils of gabfests, ready to pick up where we left off.

Before texting, there was talking (sure, there was the hand-written letter, but I’m talking in the immediate response sense). Audible. Human. Detectable. It was obvious when someone was in deep conversation. If we wished to say something, we’d wait for a pause, nudge in, say our peace, then go on our merry way.

Apart from someone resting their thumb, it’s difficult to know when to dive in because we are transfixed on screens.

Deep conversations once held face-to-face are now held in toilets and on line at the checkout – someone can be ending a relationship as they scan the baked beans.

Vicinity no longer discriminates when it comes to communication.

And so we hold conversations longer.

Which can be handy. But for parents it usually causes a fracas, as we’re forever interrupting. This silent chatter gives us no natural pause or moment for interjection.

And so saying something to a child who’s awaiting a reply on social media becomes a game of Russian Roulette. Will they snap? Will they be fine? Will they bite my head off? Will they ever look up from the device?

“But you’re not even texting.”

“Yeah, but I can see they’re typing back! Go away.”

For younger kids, tech is the new pacifier. Screens work a treat when you’re desperate for a moment to yourself.

So really, it’s a catch 22.

You’re damned if you do. Exhausted if you don’t.

Doesn’t end with social media, either. Youtube is just as much a glue to keep kids staring at screens.

So we’ll continue to bang-on. They’ll continue to get frustrated. We’ll continue to get exhausted. They’ll go back to their device. We’ll get that moment’s peace. Until it starts all over again. Seriously, this part of parenting wasn’t in the brochure.

They refer to taking a child off social media as ‘digital amputation’. An apt name, because it’s a powerful addiction, and we all know someone who’s gone through the pain of breaking one.

The solution? Well, with kids, restricting and banning social media does work. But only if you’re willing to put in the time and effort…and put up with the drama of withdrawal (because it is a production). But think of the rewards: less snappiness, calmer talking, and deeper sleeps – them AND you.

Unfortunately, the carousel of social media is just another wretched growing pain parents have to deal with. I say ‘deal’, because it can never be completely stopped. It’s more delayed until they can afford their own data plans.

Just remember, if you think a child is ‘missing out’ by not being connected 24/7 with friends, they’re not. It’s the opposite. Not having the ability to post a selfie isn’t the end of the world – although your kids and their cohorts will try their darnedest to convince you otherwise. Hey, they’d eat takeaway 24/7 too, if they could.

There you go, think of tech as fast food – too much is harmful. Would you want your kids digitally obese?

Why do we worry about our kids being bullied or bullying at school, yet allow them to bully us when it comes to the digital world?

Children can no longer be clipped around the ear (a good thing), but they can have their earplugs pulled out.

At the end of the day, it comes down to balance. And balance to a child is dictated through solid parenting decisions.

You want them to talk and not be stuck to their screens? Take away the glue.

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