Digital technology gives us the ability to connect instantly, traversing great distances. However, we can disconnect without enough face-to-face communication. If your teenager is in a texting frenzy every day, you are aware that it is the most popular way to communicate. Texting, instant messaging, emailing and social media sites mean that teenagers are spending less time and effort on in-person interactions. Building a real human relationship requires more in-person connections.
Texting and emailing are quick and convenient; you might even find yourself texting your teen more often than speaking to him. However, teen expert Jennifer Austin Leigh warns at TribLive that a propensity to type rather than speak has become an addiction for many teenagers. Leigh explains that texting, instant messaging and emailing are stunted forms of communication that can hinder personal relationships. This can lead to detachment, a lack of mental stimulation and emotional connection, misunderstandings and a breakdown in communication. Digital communication is flat and cannot show facial expressions, tone of voice and affection as well as in-person communication. Some teens may also hide behind a screen and type things that they would not say to people, include bullying, flirtation and verbal abuse.
A 2009 study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior reports that there are several reasons many teens prefer to use digital communication rather than talking to someone directly or on the phone. Texting, emailing and using social sites help teens avoid facing social anxiety and shyness. Many teens are not comfortable talking to someone face to face and use digital communication as a crutch instead of improving verbal and in-person communication skills. The study noted that females are more likely to have social anxiety and use texting and social media sites more often than males. This might be due to higher incidences of low self-esteem and insecurity in teenage girls.
Most teens still say talking in person is still their preferred way to communicate. Common Sense Media reports that, despite having their eyes glued to a screen for much of the day, almost half of teens say their favorite way to talk to friends is in person. Texting is still a hit among 33 percent of teens, with 7 percent preferring social networking and 4 percent saying talking on the phone is their favorite method of communication. Teens state they prefer face-to-face communication because it is more fun and makes it easier to understand someone better. This data means that your teen might be more open to a conversation than you think.
You can help your teenager become more comfortable with face-to-face communication by making the time for in-person conversations. Give your teen your full attention and turn your body to look at him while you are speaking to him. If possible, sit down face to face in a quiet place for longer discussions. Keep your voice low and calm and be aware of your facial expressions so that you don't look upset or annoyed. Teens might misinterpret speaking loudly or looking worried. If you are worried or annoyed, tell your teen; naming your emotions, helps your teen become more open about his feelings, too. Give your teen ample time to speak and show him that you are hearing what he is saying by asking relevant questions. Keep a sense of humor and lighten the situation with laughter when it is appropriate.