I am amazed to see the number of parents who give infants and children their smart phones, as a way to settle the child down. Even though there are numerous entertaining apps that will hold the child’s attention, verbal interaction should still be maintained.
Many children are content playing with smart phones and computers. Most can go for extended periods without interaction with other children or adults. The educational apps that are available for young children and infants can give them a head-start on basic learning. Meanwhile, the parents get a chance to complete tasks like housework, shopping, homework, or for just taking a much deserved break.
There were no smart phones when my child was young; therefore, while shopping, he would attack a box of cookies or a sugary drink. I knew I would pay later when he started bouncing off the walls. Some parents still resort to the “shopping cart buffet” method of keeping their young children quiet and content during shopping trips. Those parents are not always willing to give up the phone—because they are talking on it, and cannot be distracted, for fear of missing what “he” or “she” has said.(aka, the latest gossip) So the child ends up overeating, hyper, and sick from sampling whatever can be easily opened in the shopping cart.
Parents will do whatever it takes to keep their children quiet; they do not want to be bothered while they complete their tasks. Whether at home, out running errands or out for a stroll in the park, most parents rely on their smart phones to keep children busy—and quiet.
Here are a few helpful suggestions to ensure that children learn the value of interaction and communication:
Make it a point to engage in a conversational exchange with children. (Even babies will respond)
Interact with them to discuss the games or apps they played on the phone or computer.
Encourage children to talk about what they just did; ask them to explain how to operate the game or app.
Create active conversations about how things work in the home. (Appliances, electronics, television)
The interaction created will help children develop communication skills and logic when they attempt to explain a process. This does not have to be a difficult task for the child. Parents just have to fill in the gaps to keep the child talking. The fun part is watching them gain confidence as they see how the parent is relying on them to understand how things work. If time allows, this type of interaction should be practiced on a daily basis.
Technology has given us lots of gadgets that allow us to communicate without interaction. Have fun with them, share them, and use them to teach. Above all, make sure you find ways to use them to encourage children to communicate the old fashion way—by talking, by answering, and by elaborating.
Interaction is smart; show your children how it is done.
(I came up with the content for this blog post after observing parents on outings with their young children.)