We live in a technology-saturated world, and our kids are often more adept at the newest gadgets than we are! I’ve found that parents are sometimes weary about the newest developments in the tech world. But these are the times we live in, and the internet will never go away. The online world can improve our lives or it can distance us, so I invite adults to embrace the good it can bring. However, there are certain skills that our children may be (somewhat) lacking in how to function and have relationships in a non-virtual way. Here are 5 real life skills for high-tech kids.
1. Be Alone
There’s a tendency for teens to bury their emotions and turn to their phones. This can be likened to how a toddler needs a blanket or a binky to feel better. But let’s try and teach them to sometimes logout and embrace being alone free of internet distractions. Kids (and even adults!) are losing that important ability to sooth their own painful feelings. We can model and help them learn to identify their internal experiences, then use self-talk, mindfulness, and self-care to make themselves feel better (instead of scrolling through Instagram). The whole point is for them to get better at feeling instead of using technology to numb or avoid their emotions.
2. Ask For Comfort
Once kids recognize and acknowledge how they feel, it’s important for them to use their real-life relationships in a healthy way to seek out support when they need it. It may be less scary to post something on Facebook than to go to a friend to ask for a hug, but let’s challenge young people to seek out comfort offline. Social media isn’t an invalid way to get support, but since we need physical touch and face-to-face interaction, the online world should supplement but not replace in-person communication.
3. Make Eye Contact
I’ve noticed when I go out to eat that people around me are so often on their phones instead of talking to each other! The ability to maintain eye contact is unfortunately becoming a lost skill. Sometimes it may be awkward, and it’s certainly easier to check our gadgets, but it’s so critical that teens and adults alike look each other in the eye when they’re talking. When you’re looking down at your iPad, it sends the message that what’s happening in the virtual world is more important to you than what is happening with your friend in that moment. And remember that just because your phone buzzes doesn’t mean you need to answer it!
4. Greet Someone New
Recently, my eight-year-old met someone new at our house. She was pre-occupied by an iPad, didn’t look up, and mumbled a “hello.” I was worried and realized I needed to teach her how to give a proper welcome! Let’s teach our high-tech children to look at someone, extend a handshake, and speak clearly. This shows respect and interest and is a skill we need to help restore.
5. Maintain Meal-Time Conversation
In a busy world of fast food, over-scheduling, and not enough time, we seem to be losing the art of using food to gather and connect with others emotionally. My family has Sunday dinner when my older children come home, and we’ve implemented a “No Phone Zone” policy for the dinner table. We try instead to focus on catching up, asking questions, and reconnecting as loved ones. It can be hard for all of us (myself included!) to put down our gadgets, but it’s worth it. I want to put these skills into practice so my younger children can learn how to communicate, date, and connect with others.