Communication – The Disappearing Art Form

phoneText, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat…these are but a few of the new and most common ways for today’s generation to communicate. Gone are the days of face-to-face time. Gone are the days of just sitting on the porch and shooting the breeze for hours. Gone are the days of chatting on the phone until late at night and mom coming in and saying “Hey, it’s time to hang up and go to bed.”

Today’s teens spend their hours not speaking with each other, but texting, posting videos, and of course, taking selfies.  In May 2014, the term “selfie” joined the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.  (“Selfie: An image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks.”)  It is now a permanent part of the American vocabulary. Today, kids don’t see the need for words, when a selfie can express what life is all about.

Unfortunately, as technology improves and more ways to communicate appear, so do the dangers of losing privacy, the sense of self-protection, and the ability to communicate with proper speech. Today’s teens see no danger in Facebook or with posting videos and pictures of themselves all over the Internet.  To them, the Internet is as safe as their bedroom. What could go wrong? It’s my Facebook and only 10,000 of my closest friends can see what I post, right?

Today’s teens see no reason for having a conversation and interacting using actual words, when they can so easily express themselves in 140 characters or less with just one click. The need for proper language expression has been replaced with abbreviated words.  The need to sit and talk has been replaced with heads down and eyes on the screen…the phone screen that is.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I love technology.  I love how it has improved all of our lives, especially those of our students here at Florida Virtual School.  But we still need to teach our kids to speak. We still need to make sure our young adults are ready for that job interview. There is still a need to sit across the desk from another human being and express in spoken words why he or she is the most qualified for that job.  On that day, “idk,” “brb,” “jk,” and “lol” won’t help.

This school year, I urge parents to spend some one-on-one time with their kids and just talk. Disconnect from phones, laptops, and Smart TVs and just hangout on the porch, around the dinner table, or anywhere to just talk.  Following is a list of speaking skills you can work on with your kids.

Eye Contact:  Practice looking into each other’s eyes when speaking.  Don’t let your child look down at a device or another distraction. Practice looking up, eye to eye, and speak with the person across from you.  Do this on a regular basis to show you are listening and paying attention to what is being said.  Let your child know his/her words matter.

Speak Clearly:  Kids need to practice making sense.  Practice telling stories from start to finish. Have your child tell what happened first, next, and how it ended. Unfortunately, with all the abbreviations we see in texting, kids are forgetting that story telling takes more time and more words. Sequential details are needed to be clear, complete, and concise.

Use Questions:  Get their input.  The selfie has slowly eroded the reality that life does not revolve around oneself.  It’s important that kids know life is not “all about me, all of the time.”  Get a newspaper and discuss today’s events.  Ask questions about what is going on.  Help them see that there is a big and real world out there and we can and should be an active part of it.

Listen:  Remember, as adults, we too can be culpable of the same behaviors we are seeing in our kids. Let’s put down our phones, turn off Facebook, and take some time to enjoy a conversation. Disconnect devices and talk to your student.  Don’t miss out on a good laugh, a great time, and a wonderful memory that you won’t find anywhere online!

Post by: Dr. Patricia Cordones, MS, D.Min; Professional Certified School Counselor at Florida Virtual School 

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