social media

Does Technology Diminish Social Skills?

“The problem with all of this technology is that kids today can’t survive in the real world. They don’t have the social skills they need.”

I hear this a lot from parents at my social media workshops.

And I am empathetic to the logic.

Yet I disagree with the sentiment.

For a parent in her late 30s to mid 40s it’s hard to look at her fourteen year old daughter, who sends 3400 texts messages a month, uses Snapchat or Instagram to communicate with her friends with images, and otherwise seems more married to her phone than the real world around her… it’s a struggle.

The parent knows her world. She knows what it takes to survive and thrive. And she assumes that for her daughter to survive “in the real world” she’ll need to refine the strong verbal and social skills that suit her as an adult today.

But that’s the disconnect.

Your fourteen year old will never be an adult the way you are an adult today. Just like you have no idea what it’s like to be a fourteen year old today!

See, her friends– the ones on the other end of that phone texts, tweeting, and snapping her back? Those are her future co-workers in a brand new adult world that she is ushering in. Your world will never be her world. The way you communicate and build relationships is relevant to you, but it’s not altogether relevant for her in the long run.

For her to thrive in her adult life she needs to navigate thriving in her social space today.

Parents have always looked at their kids and worried that they were wasting their lives. And you know what? They survive.

The goal of your parenting shouldn’t be to raise your kids to thrive in your world. It’s to help them navigate and thrive in their world.

I saw this commercial while watching  the Olympics last night, it captures this tension so well.

To Become Multi-Lingual

But, in some ways, parents are right. (Which is why I try to help them see both sides of it.) While I’m all about helping my kids navigate the digital world they are in, I know that in order to truly succeed they’ll need to be multi-lingual. (To be clear: By multi-lingual I mean both real language and also the language of culture.)

I want them to grow up in their digital worlds, to speak their digital-world language without an accent. To thrive in what’s native to them today sets them up for success for the rest of their lives even if I’m uncomfortable with what that looks like. 

But I also want to help them know how to navigate the languages of other people. To be arrogant/ignorant of the world around you is not helpful.

This is what David Livermore calls Cultural Intelligence. Just like CQ is as important as IQ today in “the real world”, CQ will continue to be a larger and greater differentiation between people who thrive in a multi-lingual setting and those who don’t.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

3 replies on “Does Technology Diminish Social Skills?”

Wow, this is such an eye-opener for me. I am a grandma and I got my first smartphone a little over a year ago. Why did I get it? To be able to communicate with my grandchildren and my adult kids. That is how it works today but you put it so well here. I am forwarding your post to my kids and hopefully we can have some conversations about this. Thanks, Adam.

“Your fourteen year old will never be an adult the way you are an adult today.”

LOVE THAT STATEMENT ADAM!!! I have to remind myself all the time that the world my kids are growing up in is fundamentally different that the one I grew up in. Great post!

Question? So are we hurting our kid’s future by denying them access to the digital culture they are growing up in? I hear from fearful parents (more often than not Christian parents) the do not allow their kids access to digital/social media. I’m not talking about shrewd parents trying to be wise I’m talking about a fear like reading Harry Potter will turn their child to the dark side. I’m regularly trying to help parents understand that digital/social media isn’t from the devil but they need to teach them proper stewardship of such tools.

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