What Are We Teaching Our Children?

I grew up in a time when people passed strangers on the street and in acknowledgement of one another an exchange of gentle nods would transpire or in some instances the words, “How do you do?” were spoken. Motorcyclists would wave hello to other motorcyclists and truck drivers would acknowledge other truck drivers – as if to acknowledge the connection with one another. Traffic jams would result in allowing a driver to change lanes in exchange for a friendly wave of a hand in gratitude.

The epidemic of electronic devices has transformed our connections to emails, tweets and text messaging. http://ilookbothways.com/ reported 8 trillion text messages were sent in 2011. http://blogtwitter.com reported 140 million tweets transpire monthly. In passing people today, most of the time their gaze affixes upon their smartphone in hand. Catching someone’s gaze to exchange a gentle nod seems almost impossible and has become cumbersome and problematic in the business world.

To combat this epidemic, movie theaters, fast food restaurants, offices and other places have posted signs to patrons “no cell phones” often to be ignored by the cell phone user. Yesterday, I took my mother to a doctor’s appointment and on the counter a sign stood tall, “no cell phones.” A man stepped up to the counter with his cell phone in hand and proceeded to finish texting before acknowledging the nurse. Obviously, this was not abnormal or the sign would not have been posted.

I have observed people pulling their cell phones out of the pockets or purses in both social outings and business appointments – often times with their children in tow. Their cell phones seemingly attached to each person like an umbilical cord. They lay in wait on the table and vibrate demanding attention like that of a child. Checking their phones, a person announces “Oh, it’s just Jeff; I can call him back later.” It’s as if they need constant assurance that attending their current event was more important than what might be ringing in on their cell phone. In essence, telling everyone else at the table, that our personal company was only as good as the next important phone call.

Dr. Saarni, a leading expert in social competency skills, indicates that children learn specific emotional behaviors, norms and symbols for their culture as an unintended result of social interaction. Dr. Saarni’s theory seems to be an accurate depiction of what’s taking place in our society. When children attend these events – they mirror their parent’s manners – emulating their every move. They detached themselves from the conversation and plug into their smartphones clutched into their hands – putting the adults on hold as obviously the children had something better to do.

Our world has dramatically changed. The transactions on our cell phones trump our personal connections. This culture’s being transmitted electronically into the hands of our children. Some may call me “old-fashioned” but I would readily revisit the days of gentle nods or a welcomed “how do you do?” I am all for the advances of technology – just not at the expense of the company that I keep. What about you?


About Tina Donovan

Tina Donovan, M.Ed., PC has dedicated her life both professionally and personally to improving the lives of children. From volunteering as a youth leader to developing a non-profit youth organization, her focus has been on providing opportunities to children enabling them to discover and develop their own unique talents.

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