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Children are being exposed to technology at a younger age every generation. The average age that a child received a cell phone in 2006 was thirteen (Carter). In 2009 that age dropped down to eight, according to Tribune Business Journal. The use of technology by children negatively affects interpersonal communication skills because it limits social interactions and development and this is important because it affects future jobs, relationships and health.
Cognitive development is the construction of thought process, including remembering, problem solving and decision making from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. ” (Lloyd 15)
If, during “critical periods of development” (Cole 13), the child misses an important developmental skill, the ball is set rolling, and the child will be behind his or her peers. One critical period is around when a child is about eight years old.
Here, they begin to learn how to communicate their needs effectively and polish their thought process.
These specific thought process skills include assimilation, accommodation, and adaptation. According to Piaget, assimilation is the process by which various experiences are mentally taken in and incorporated into existing schemas. Accommodation is taking what is experienced and applying it to new and old information and adaptation is taking the information processed and changing their behavior based on the experience. This is the very core of the human thought process.
If this stage of mental development is missed, the foundation for future developmental skills is fragile.
How a child at eight years old might miss this stage is by replacing face to face conversations with adults, with texting or fragmented phone call conversations with peers. The evidence of the effects of technology on children’s social skills is most notable in school, where they do the most socializing. However, when observing students in school today, versus ten years ago, there are drastic differences. At first glance in an average high school, the hallways are buzzing with the sounds of chatter and laughter, but when you look closely many of the students are at their lockers texting.
Most schools prohibit the use of cell phones in class; hence the time that the students spend together in the halls is also spent attached to their phones texting each other instead of socializing face to face. On the bus rides to and from school, most students choose to listen to their MP3 players and play handheld gaming systems instead of attempting to make conversations. By making conversations, not only do they expand their network of friends, but their vocabulary and socializing skills. After school, students ride the silent bus home, to go straight to their rooms and computers.
Here they isolate themselves from friends in their neighborhood, playing in online virtual worlds they create. These online “selves” can project identities that are not their own, morphing them into what they want to be seen as, instead of who they really are. This creates a self image conflict and children continue to isolate themselves to preserve their virtual “image” or become the person they are pretending to be. Even social networks is a virtual community where children are opting to socialize instead of going over to a friend’s house.
Less face to face conversation also inhibits emotional exchange. Texting and typing responses on a computer, hardly make up for the social interactions children once had ten years ago. Academically, technology has adverse affects on students who overuse it. Within class, students who are less socially developed are less likely to partake in group activities. Over time, this forces teachers to change their teaching styles to accommodate those students. Group projects in school is more than just being able to assign larger more in depth projects.
This is where students learn how to problem solve, give and receive constructive criticism, work together, and learn leadership skills. However, these group projects are more painful than helpful because students lack the foundation of interpersonal communication skills. Teachers resort to teaching verbally and rely on the students capabilities in auditory processing. School is becoming boring to students to overuse technology. They are so used to being constantly stimulated and needing to multitask every moment, that school is no longer stimulating enough.
Since their attention spans are so limited, their auditory processing is also limited. Because of the heavy use of abbreviations used while texting, students grades are being negatively impacted because they are using the slang and abbreviations in assignments and formal papers. Most of the problems children are having today can be prevented by parents and school systems. As research is continuing to be done, schools are trying to adapt. Even though some schools have banned cell phones, that does not mean the students keep them at home. They resort to secretly texting during class, which means they are not focusing on their lessons.
They are able to multitask but their attention spans are shortened.
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