My husband and I went to a very casual neighborhood restaurant for dinner recently. Tables were filled with different aged patrons, groups of young people and families with children. It was a typical evening.
A table near us “opened” and a family of four came in and sat down. There was an adult man, a woman and two girls who looked to be pre-teen or young teenagers. No one spoke to each other. Both girls and one of the adults were attentive to handheld devices. The other adult opened an envelope and read papers. There was a brief pause with ordering but they all went back to their own interests quickly.
Walking down the street, at sporting events and even sitting next to each other, adults, teenagers and children who are quite young (7-8 years old) are constantly talking or texting on handheld devices. This does not require eye contact with another person. It does not offer casual cues we learn to associate with messages (shrugged shoulders, raised eyebrows, smirks and smiles). There is no needed exchange of live person-to-person ideas. Print does not include physical contact or voice inflection.
What is the model provided to young children who are just trying to figure out how to connect with others? How should they manage their own interactions in a group? How do they initiate and maintain relationships? A conversation is a give and take that includes body as well as voice.
Young children need you – personally.
They need to listen to your voice and watch the way you manage your face and body to convey messages to others. How close do you stand next to someone? Why do you laugh near someone and how does that change your body? What do you do when someone near you is sad? What does it mean when your voice is soft, loud, squeaky or silly?
Your child is watching you. When I look at you or you look at me, I know we are connected. When you ask me a direct question and there is a space for my answer, it lets me know you are interested in what I say. We can take turns talking. When I don’t have to wait for you to hang up or finish texting, or turn something off, I know you think I’m important. When you hold my hand, I know we belong to each other.
Life is fast. We are completely surrounded by astonishing technology. Competition is real and change is swift. These are facts.
But these facts truly pale in comparison to how quickly the baby in the crib is asking for car keys and the toddlers in the sandbox are off to school. Don’t miss this time with your little one. You’ll never get it back.
Find a balance. Make it personal.
-Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director