And it’s not just my kids. I recently witnessed two very young children, maybe only 4 years old, playing with iPhones as they waited for their meals with their family at a restaurant. That seems way too young to me, not to mention my wondering what happened to family talk at the dinner table?
Meaningful human contact is necessary for children’s social and emotional development. Our babies enter the world craving social contact. You can observe this in the way their eyes follow you, the sounds they make and their social smile. When they become toddlers they imitate us as we (hopefully) model appropriate behaviors and emotions. If they don’t get that, how will they ever learn to self-regulate and have any emotional competence? I have seen many a teenager in today’s generation that does not know how to hold a conversation. How will they ever be able to hold down a job?
Dr. Bruce Perry of Early Childhood Today calls self-regulation the “second core strength.” He attests that attentive, caring adults respond to a child’s needs, and their responses provide stimulation that helps the brain develop the capacity to create and maintain healthy emotional relationships.
It’s obvious that phones and computers are a part of life now and that’s not going to change. But how can parents ensure that our kids are getting the nurturing they need in this world of technology? Instead of monitoring the computer, we are going to have to monitor ourselves! It doesn’t mean mom and dad can’t indulge in gadgets, but it does mean we have to be mindful. Our children are emulating us and we need to practice what we preach. Let your kids see you turn off the computer and read a book. Instead of texting, talk to each other. Make time for family table talk. Endeavor to really communicate with your children and the next time you want to start a conversation, put down the phone.