It’s no secret that children learn the majority of their life skills by example. They learn to speak by hearing their parents speak, and as they age they continue to learn by example: from their parents, from their peers, from their teachers, anybody and everybody has an influence on the way that they act. My question is, what happens if their most prominent social role model is not a physical one, but one put in front of them, a digital one.
That question is asked in a myriad of ways: do violent video games cause children to be violent? And it’s been asked in different ways throughout the generations, from banned books to deeming Rock and Roll the Devil’s music. Authority figures, much like our immune systems, see something new and consider it a threat, they’ll do everything in their power to stomp out the threat. However, what happens if the potential threat isn’t so obvious?
If children learn by example, is it going too far to say that things like: table manners, polite social skills, even how to act in public is learned in the beginning by watching those around them at the table? I would postulate that by putting children in front of a screen at a restaurant, we inhibit their ability to learn many of the social skills we take for granted on a daily basis. What if the simple act of handing a kid an iPad at the dinner table is just as harmful as buying a 13 year old a Call of Duty game? Would you hand them the iPad?
I ask these questions not to criticize, but to understand. When I was a kid, dinner was the most important part of the day, for many reasons. Whether my family went out, or we sat down at the table together, we were together. We discussed our days, and learned something new about manners, about speaking to one another, about respecting other’s opinions and ideas, about creating meaningful conversation. Many of these skills, to me, seem like they cannot be taught conventionally, but rather are learned symbiotically with those around you.
Let me hear what you have to say. Your voice is just as important as mine, and I want to understand. I don’t write to criticize, I write to question and to understand. Critical thought and critical discussion are skills I learned at the table, I want to put them to use here.
To summarize, I postulate that children put in front of digital devices at dinner tables are prone to slower development of many social skills that we regularly take for granted. I argue that we take these skills for granted because we learned them without knowing that we did.
Again, thank you for reading, please leave some comments below. To be continued next Monday! If you haven't already, check out Part 1 of this series!