In the digital age, many parents have a new concern: helping teens learn and use personal communications skills. Some teens spend more time on social media and texting than they do on any other hobby. Too much of this type of interaction can have a negative impact on relationships and even future job prospects. But there are ways you can limit the potential damage of technology on communication.
Lead by Example
The best way to get your teenager's attention on the topic of face-to-face communication is to turn off your own technology. Whether you are having a serious discussion, or just asking him about his day, make sure that you are not distracted by technology. Create some times and spaces that are "No Technology Zones." Family meal times, a family game night or a weekend getaway can allow everyone to set aside the digital world and have some personal interaction. Your teens may balk at the idea initially, but in the end, putting away the phones can give you some meaningful experiences together.
Technology as a Convenience
One effective way to help your teen see technology in the right light is to explain the difference between using technology as a tool for convenience and becoming dependent on technology. Texting can be a quick way to send a message when a phone call is not an option, but there are some things that need to be said in person. Sensitive conversations, such as those that would define or change the status of a relationship, should always be had in person if possible. Teach your teen not to hide behind technology by handling confrontation or an unpleasant conversation via text or instant message.
In the professional world, face-to-face meetings are essential. The same is true of personal relationships, where non-verbal cues can be sent through body language, inflection and tone of voice. Real communication involves more than just words, and teens need to develop the skill of using these cues both to communicate and interpret communications. They will enjoy more successful relationships and greater success in dealing with teachers and potential employers when they can learn to convey and absorb ideas through personal communication. As cited in "USA Today," a 2005 report for Achieve, a non-profit organization with a goal of raising academic standards, found that 34 percent of employers were dissatisfied with high school graduates' oral communication skills.
One of the lost arts of the digital age among teens is the ability to come up with an answer on the spot. We are losing basic skills such as in-person communication that used to come naturally, says Sonya Hamlin, author of "How to Talk So People Listen: Connecting in Today's Workplace," told "USA Today." When conversing through text or instant message, teenagers can read and re-read a message several times, think about an answer and edit their response over and over before actually sending it. The skill of being able to speak intelligently without a lot of lead time is one necessary to job interviews and relationships alike. Teens need to learn how to say something meaningful in a few words without a lot of preparation, or risk losing a potential date, job or friendship.