In the first of a two-part series, we are going to put the spotlight on the importance of interpersonal skills and how it can help our children not only progress through school and later on at university but crucially when they embark on their careers.
Addressing the issue
One of the great challenges facing educators today is stemming the adverse tide that social media and smartphones are having on our children’s ability to communicate. Schoolkids are now spending an inordinate amount of time on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, which is affecting their ability to concentrate. Surely having an adverse affect on their grades.
Maintaining healthy and positive successful interactions with others requires strong communication skills. As Kairen Cullen, an educational psychologist, puts it, “The time invested in social media versus real life interpersonal interaction can detract from that available for real human contact and contribute to delayed and/or distorted social and emotional development.”
With the inexorable rise of ‘text speak’ and instant messaging, it is not surprising that many children struggle with grammar and basic literacy. Indeed, accoridng to a survey carried out by learning disability charity, Mencap, two in three chilidren regularly use this ‘invented’ social media language in their homework. They are seemingly unable to differentiate the two.
Improving crucial basic skills
While this is to be expected, children need to be taught how to use technology in more formal and diverse communication scenarios – think of emails and report writing. This toxic dependence on gadgets is clearly impacting their ability to communicate face to face. “They may have trouble initiating interactions, those small talk situations. They don’t have as much experience doing it because they’re not engaging in it. They always have something else going on,” stresses Melissa Ortega, a child psychologist at New York’s Child Mind Institute.
What can you do?
So what can you as a parents or teachers do to ensure that more formal communication learning isn’t being neglected? Laying the foundations for strong literacy skills has to start early on. You can also,
- Encourage your children to use crayons and pencils, getting them to practice spelling by writing birthday or thank you cards.
- Body language is another important area, so you can demonstrate different body movements in a fun way, using games to guess the various emotions at play.
- Have your children practice positive persuasion in a fun way by getting them to present you with a compelling argument for something they want.
No one is suggesting we put a complete ban on social media. Exposure to language and the written word in its many shapes and forms is crucial. But given the lack of literacy among many school leavers and jobseekers, it is the responsibility of parents and teachers to serve as role models and remind our children that each language has its rightful place.
American businessman and personal development guru Paul J. Meyer summed it up succinctly, ‘Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success’. And at a time when our economies are desperately short of suitably skilled professionals, the stakes could not be higher.
In our next article out tomorrow, we’ll look at the skills teachers need to excel and inspire their students.