teenagers and Social Networks

by Prez Ro, Matteson, IL

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Technology has ruined teens social skills. Wouldn't you agree?

I have came to the conclusion that technology in today's day and age has affected the social skills of young people. We have kids who are on their cell phones texting 24/7. They ask the opposite sex out on dates. They ask them to go to prom with them through texting. When they show up at a party they have been invited too, you can see numerous young people texting each other from different parts of the house, instead of going up to the person and having a face to face conversation with them. When they go to movies, they text instead of watching the movie with the person they went there with, no matter if they like the person or not. It doesn't matter.

They would even rather text than make a phone call and hear the other persons voice on the other line.

What is our world coming to?

Maybe you have a teenager (or more than one?) Maybe you work with teens, or you’ve got teenagers in your extended family. If you have a teen in your life, we’d love to know if you worry about this, too.

We’ve chatted about all kinds of kids and technology dilemmas here (including the pros and cons of blogging about your kids!). So, when we read this great article about “Anti-Social Networking” in the New York Times, we wanted to see what you think.


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Many kids consume media as a full-time job (with overtime) according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Frankly, we do worry about these online activities long term. This New York Times piece questions the possible implications of texting, instant messaging, and Facebook on kids’ social skills. Before electronic media, kids often had a  “best friend”  in whom to confide.  Long conversations took place on the telephone.


On Bruce Sallan’s recent radio show, he talked to Rachel about teenage boys who are asking girls to the prom via TEXTING (and then getting their hearts broken when these girls say “no” because they wanted the guys to ask on the phone or in person!)

Psychologists and other experts worry that our connected kids miss out on experiences that help them develop social skills, such as empathy and understanding.  These experts also insist that when kids become teenagers, they are clueless about how to interpret body language and other social cues.

Other experts, however, believe that social networking are helping kids develop stronger friendships. They cite the 24/7 availability as a way kid friendships are strengthened.  The benefits of social media for shy or withdrawn kids are touted.  These experts  see Facebook, for example, as a tool to help such kids develop critical social skills. 

So, the experts are sharply divided. We believe the REAL experts are YOU. Especially since your kids are “digital natives” meaning they have grown up using computers.

So, we’re wondering …

Do the teens you know ever talk on the phone anymore? Or, is it all about texting?

Do you worry about the impact social networking might have on your kids’  social skills?

If so, what measures do you take (or hope to take) to help your kids develop friendships IRL?

Or, is our concern really a “non-issue” which does NOT worry you as a parent?

Kids these days are so enamored with technology that they have a pretty difficult time imagining life without it. With the convenience that machines and gadgets afford, our children are almost always tempted to rely on gadgets, even for simple tasks.

But what happens when technology fails? Below are 5 essential skills to develop in your child so that he grows prepared and self-reliant:

Critical Thinking Skills
Research shows our skills in critical thinking and analysis decline as technology plays a bigger role in our lives. Nowadays, any question or concern that a student may have can easily be answered by an Internet search. Our kids are finding technology as a means of short cuts: Getting things done as quickly as possible with as little effort as possible. This process means that critical thinking skills may be diminishing.

Parents can demonstrate critical thinking in very simple, everyday methods: pondering aloud the most efficient way to do household chores; considering the most economical purchase to make at the grocery store; monitoring your progress toward your personal goals; or approaching social issues in your community. Describing how you think and solve problems is the best way for you to instill similar thinking patterns in your children.

Studies also show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary. Reading for pleasure, which has declined among young people in recent years, enhances thinking and engages the imagination in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not. As responsible parents, we should encourage our children to read good books instead of watching movies to develop these skills. 

Social Skills
Recent studies highlight our children are becoming super skilled when it comes to finding their way around a computer, but less proficient at social skills such as making new friends or knowing what to say in certain social situations. With the popularity of cell phones, text messaging and social networking sites, our children may be losing an essential part of communication.

As a parent, I am personally worried that future generations will have amazing intellectual potential but do not know how to express it. As such, we should take the responsibility to teach our children how to properly socialize before “short cutting” face-to-face interaction.

To prepare children for adult sociability, teach them to communicate politely and correctly. Tell them how to address someone formally as well as informally. It cannot harm them to know these things and one day they might value their own ability to be comfortable at any social level.

Sports Skills
Sports skills are skills for life. Setting goals, working hard, learning from others, and staying positive in the face of adversity are just some of the skills developed each day on the running tracks, playing fields, ice rinks, and gymnasiums. The lessons our children learn through sport will enable them to make healthy lifestyle choices, meet challenges head-on and work with others to achieve goals later in life. Motivate your child to join organized sports instead of playing Wii sports games. As with other computer games, even if played against a real person, Wii cannot beat the interaction and socializing that takes place in a gym or a court. Real sports also offer an easy way to meet new people and get involved.

  POEM - Technology Killed Social Skills?

What did we do before technology?
when things were simple yesterday
children would play outside
look for fun in their special way.

Adults would communicate
or listen to the radio at night
televisions were not invented
not even in someone's sight.

People would sit playing cards
or games for everyone
no computer in the background
just everyday normal fun.

Wii also falls short in terms of physical benefits. Compared to golfing at a driving range (3.9 calories per minute), playing Wii Golf burned 0.8 calories less per minute. Actual bowling burns nearly twice as much (7.2 calories per minute) as Wii Bowling, while baseball burns 7.3 calories per minute and Wii Baseball burns 2.8 calories per minute less. Similarly, Wii Tennis burns 2.8 calories per minute less than the actual game (8.1 calories per minute). Finally, Wii Boxing burns about 3.0 calories per minute less than conventional sparring at 10.2 calories per minute.

Household (cooking) Skills
With all the fast food restaurants and frozen pizzas, families don’t cook like they used to. But if you don’t want to raise another child who only eats pre-packaged food, you need to go back to cooking real food at home (instead of eating all the unhealthy preservatives and chemicals in prepackaged meals) while involving your kids in the process.

Teaching kids to be kitchen savvy has so many benefits. It is one of the rare opportunities you can spend quality time with them while instilling knowledge, good habits, and responsibility -because you have to be responsible while cooking. This will benefit your kids later in life, say during their college days, when they’d have to create healthy meals by themselves, or when the time comes that they would need to cook for a family of their own.

Navigation Skills
Global positioning systems, or GPS technology, have recently become popular for many consumers and, like any other form of technology, evolved to include features that replace some other skills we once relied upon. But emergency situations happen; the battery in the GPS can die or the GPS itself could malfunction. Therefore, it is always handy to have a navigation strategy that includes a backup to GPS whenever possible.

Navigation and map-reading are essential life skills. Teaching children how to use a map to locate their current position and find their destination provides them with confidence and gives them a powerful tool that can prevent them from becoming disoriented or lost. Most often, children associate maps with treasure hunts and grand storybook adventures. Teaching this skill in a similar game format will instill a lifelong love of map reading in children of all ages.

Technology is here to stay and we, as a society, need to guide our children towards the future because after all, whatever impact technology has on them now is what will shape society’s forthcoming generations. Instill in your child these essential skills and he should grow up prepared for the challenges that lie ahead with or without the aid of technology.

Do you think technology has killed  some of our social skills? Will today’s easy to use technology turn out to be the worse thing that could have happened when it comes to children learning to interact with others? We put our questions to our local families for input:

Laura Alesi Prince-Vomvos
Is anyone wondering what communication and social skills of our children will be like 10 years from now? I do. I wonder because it seems to me that all communication is done now via text messages and Facebook and emails! In fact, I don't think I've heard a telephone conversation in years. Anyone else getting tired of trying to sit through a show with your children, but all their attention is aimed at looking down at their phone and responding to texts constantly? What about the earplugs in the ears connected to their iPod and music? Some of the best conversations used to take place on a drive in the car when you finally had their attention now they have plugs?!! Any thoughts on how we as Moms stay "plugged in" to them?

JoAnn Patriarca Rota
Ok I hate to admit this but I might be as bad as my kids! I can’t remember the last time I had a normal phone conversation (except with my parents. They are electronically challenged...!) I text everything..I don;t think it;s only the kids that are losing social

Skills. I text my kids When dinner is ready! My husband & I always wear our iPods on long car rides so we hear our music instead of the bickering in the back seat. I think it’s horrible but I’m getting sucked right into it instead of trying to stop it.

Laura Alesi Prince-Vomvos
JoAnn you crack me up! I too must confess, especially in my field of real estate, that I am heavily addicted to texts, email and blackberry! But I do not text my husband to come to dinner, because he can't text back! LOL You are right though, never thought of it that way, if the children are not expected to be socially skilled because the adults are no longer socially skilled I suppose it all works out?! Or does it?! All I know is that I can't "hear" what is going on in their lives, and I don't like it one bit.

Valerie Mineo-Rivera
I have to agree, I am definitely as bad as my kids sometimes! The one thing that got me a few years ago was that from the day we moved into this new house i hadn't seen a "live" person in about five months!! He was always on the Xbox and I'd here him talking. Finally I asked him who are you talking to? He said Alex... I then asked where Alex lived and to my surprise Alex lived two blocks away! I yanked the Xbox away and told him to get his butt on his bike and actually go interact with Alex in real life! If I allowed it (which I don't) my kids would have their headphones on from Friday at 3pm till Sunday night before bed. It's crazy! And I wonder why their social skills stink... not so much!

Social Skills on the Outs

I work with middle school students and notice a decline in face to face communication skills which I attribute to the increase in technology usage. Social networking sites provide students with an opportunity to communicate without fear of seeing the hurt in someone's eyes, this said straight from the mouth of a middle school child. They also feel more "free" to type whatever they want to say, the boundary lines become blurred and empathy is lost. So many conflicts end up in the classroom because of what was "said" in a text message or posted on a wall.

I am all for increase in technology in the classrooms as long as we are continuing to teach our students/children about empathy and communicating on a deeper level. We also need to speak openly with our students about the proper ways to communicate via technology; to be proactive in teaching these "techno-skills" with the intent to prevent face to face conflicts.

Bertha Kaumbulu
Technology in an of itself has no value. It is how we use it that places a value on whether it is efficacious as a tool for learning. Many teachers are still trying to apply traditional teaching methods in the classroom and therefore believe that technology is in control. However, I believe as educators we must teach students how to use these tools in collaborative environments, using 21st century instructional methods to meet the needs of a changing society

Tanya B
Yeah, what Tango said, but also spelling is getting out of control. When I see a sign that says 'Drive Thru open late at nite', it pisses me off a bit. Makes the McDonald's people kind of look retarded.

It's not ruining social skills, it's giving them different social skills than what you're used to. The fact that you can't stand that someone does something differently than you is your problem, not theirs.


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