Smartphone technology has given today’s generation of teenagers unprecedented access to one another and to more information at the tips of their fingers than they will ever be able to fully explore. They can look up anything from the news and the weather to the events leading up to the French and Indian War, then seconds later exchange texts with one another about plans for the evening. Unfortunately, this smart technology has a number of teachers, parents, and other adults asking one critical question: Do today’s teens need to learn “iSocial” skills?
Note Writing is a Lost Art
As little as ten years ago, it was perfectly normal for high school students to pass notes during class. If the were bored during class, students wrote notes to their friends. While generations of teachers might have found this behavior frustrating, it did have a number of benefits for students. Not only did it help hone handwriting skills, it offered the chance to practice sentence structure, spelling, and conveying information through the written word. While these simple notes might not seem to have contained strokes of literary genius, they were generally more complex than text messages, which are often as simple as two or three words.
The loss of note-writing skills has left many teenagers at a loss. They’ll never tuck a note into a spouse or child’s lunchbox when they can simply text the same information at lunch time. They won’t learn the art of strategically placing a note to a parent, since they can text them and be certain that the message is received. Unfortunately, it is through their communication with friends that many teenagers are being shorted the most. With recent studies indicating that more than 26% of college graduates still do not display adequate writing skills, this lack of practice may be more significant than many teens would like.
Text-Speak is Becoming Increasingly Common
“Lol.” “Brb.” “G2g.” These simple abbreviations have become more and more prevalent in everyday conversation, as have other abbreviations and shortened forms of words that have the power to make English teachers pull their hair out. Since the average teenager sends out more than 3,000 texts per month, or more than 100 texts per day, it’s no wonder: these shortened forms of words, phrases, and even entire sentences are seeping into their minds, taking the place of more complex ways of communicating the same information. Of those 100 texts, how many of them contain full sentences or even full thoughts? Teenagers are able to entertain themselves and feel as though they are interacting with one another without ever actually saying anything to each other. It’s possible that many of a teenager’s daily texts contain only a handful of characters meant to stand for far more complicated concepts. To these teens, it’s “saving time.” Unfortunately, it’s also decreasing their spelling skills as well as their ability to correctly construct sentences. As this becomes more common, these shortcuts are making their way into everyday speech, becoming a regular part of interacting with society instead of just a quick time-saver.
Informal Speech Has Become Increasingly Common
Many of today’s teens get most of their exposure to the written word not from books, but on the internet. As a result, informality has become the norm. Rather than respectfully addressing parents, teachers, and other elders, students expect everyone to interact on their level. Professional speech and demeanor have been sacrificed on the altar of “convenience” and “ease of communication.” Many of today’s teenagers have no idea how to act when they’re dealing with professors in college, customers at their jobs, and other individuals who should be treated with respect. Instead, this informality has permeated all of their dealings.
Smart technology is a wonderful thing. The information available at the press of a button is incredible. It all becomes less useful, however, when our teens are losing their writing and speaking skills because of it.
What Can Parents Do?
Here are a few ideas to help your teen improve their communication skills!
- In my family we write letters to each other on our birthdays instead of buying an overpriced impersonal greeting card. It gives our kids an opportunity to practice the art of handwriting. You will also just love saving these and they are so fun to reminisce over!
- Have your teen send out handwritten thank-you notes to friends and family each and every time they receive a gift! Another fun idea is the next time your teen has a party have them spend time designing and drawing handmade invitations. People really love to get a handmade invite these days vs. the typical Evite!
- Teach your teen the gift of keeping a journal. Buy them a beautiful journal that includes a lock and a and pen. Encourage them to write their hopes, fears, dreams or goals in this book. They just might love it!
What matters the most is that you work with your teen and encourage them to practice the skills that they may not get to use on a regular basis. It may be a great idea to have them take regular breaks from social media so that they can exclusively invest time in these “new” activities like journaling or writing a letter to Grandma (she will love it!). It is always easier to help your teen maintain balance in their lives with their mobile devices when you use a parental control software. For instance, Netsanity has a suite of services for Apple or Android mobile devices their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to encourage your teen to invest time in their new skill-building activities. They have a free trial so it’s worth checking out.
Finally, you are the best example for your teen! Spend time writing your teen a letter on their birthday, let them see you writing a hand written note to a friend, or even pick up the phone and call Grandma and have a nice long conversation. These steps are all going to improve their ‘iSocial” skills, that will enhance your teens life as they continue to enjoy the amazing benefits of technology!
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Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.