Start talking, please!

The development of language is part of the development of the personality, for words are the

natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people.

                                                                                Maria Montessori

Have you noticed people are talking less to one another? Inside (stores, airports, offices, restaurants) and outside (walking to and from buildings, sidewalks, parks, parking lots), less and less are people noticing and acknowledging one another with a glance, a smile or “Hello!” Heads are down, glances averted and, in so many cases, smart phones or another device are masking our faces and expressions.

Has not talking to one another become socially acceptable and a norm in today’s culture? More often than not, if I don’t initiate a greeting when I am in a waiting room, lobby, waiting for a take-out order, or coffee at Starbuck’s, there is no communication past “$5.74 at the window”, or “do you have an appointment?” Recently, I’ve made a concerted effort to give eye contact and a verbal greeting with each person I encounter. It is obvious others are not expecting my attention; I can see my overt actions feel a little unfamiliar, and definitely awkward to them. In my childhood, greeting one another was expected, considered polite and good manners. Eye contact, simple interactive language to recognize and acknowledge others was the norm.  As a child I witnessed adults routinely greeting others in daily life sending the message “I notice you, and I would like to be noticed.”

Language is an interactive process between people. Language is our tool to get our needs met and express emotions, key factors for healthy child development. Thriving sustainable relationships that acknowledge others’ needs and reflect caring and empathy are positive outcomes of healthy language development. Are you talking to your children? Are your children talking to you? Have your relationships improved since acquiring more technology? Have your family communications improved? Are meaningful family conversations taking place or is most of your communication strategic and logistic, i.e., who is picking Johnny up from practice? I will pick you up at 6:00. Opportunities to use and practice language, grace and courtesy are waning, disappearing in some cases. The distraction of technology is significantly impacting how we use and receive language which further impacts healthy development and a socially balanced society.

So why do we call these devices smart phones when they are stealing “language” from us? What is so smart about that? Language is crucial to healthy human development. Children acquire speech and language skills over a period of time in a sequential order. Healthy language acquisition primarily occurs by hearing language spoken; and mastery occurs through practicing speaking and writing. Note: not typing or texting, good old-fashioned handwriting!

There is no denying the indispensable benefits of technology to our culture. It has demonstrated its tremendous value in many areas of our society. However, we should recurrently examine our personal practices and ask: 1) what message do we send when we speak or interact with eye contact and attention, and 2) what message do we send when we have a screen in front of our face when someone is speaking to us?

Every generation has its challenges. It is important for us to identify today’s challenges so we can craft solutions to bring forth progress for the next generation. Do we have to let go of one thing to embrace another, certainly not! Technology is here to stay. With that in mind, parents please protect your children’s development, recognize the impact in your family, establish family guidelines and healthy priorities for yourself, your children and your relationships.

On Thursday, September 12 at 6:30 pm, MVM is hosting the award-winning movie, SCREENAGERS. This movie is for parents of children of all ages as it reveals how tech time impacts children’s development and offers insights on how adults can empower children to best navigate the digital world and find balance.

For goodness sake, please START talking!

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