Parents need to put down their phones, warns Okanagan speech-language pathologist

“Our brains are hardwired to learn from face-to-face communication.”

Insufficient face-to-face communication between parents and children has been linked to significant language and lifelong learning difficulties, says a speech-language pathologist with the Okanagan Skaha School District.

Janette Grant says the culprit of this generational learning deficiency, the onset of which started 12 years ago, is excessive interaction with smart phones and tablets.

“Oral language communication is a key pillar of so many core skills that children learn at a young age,” Grant said. “Our brains are hardwired to learn from face-to-face communication. That need doesn’t go away because we have a tablet in front of us.”

Related: Investors urge Apple to take action against child gadget addiction

Grant said the danger of social media reliance is that about seven per cent of learning comes from word association, the other 93 per cent comes from the tone of delivery, body language associated with it and facial expression.

She said unchecked, children of the current generation can grow up without a strong sense of empathy for others, find themselves addicted to smart phone or table to interaction and have difficulty functioning in the workplace.

“If you are an IT person and sit behind a computer all day, that impact isn’t probably very noticeable but for someone who has to function in an office environment, an inability to communicate orally will present social skill problems,” she said.

Grant is part of Speech and Hearing BC, an association committed to addressing language learning shortfalls. May is officially Speech and Hearing month, an opportunity the association is using to promote Talk Spot, an initiative to encourage face-to-face communication with someone they love.

The City of Vancouver has announced Monday, May 21, as the inaugural community Talk Spot Day.

“It’s about taking advantage of any little moment where an opportunity presents itself to talk directly with someone. For a parent and their kids, it could be at the dinner table, while riding in the car, out walking the dog, at the park, at the community centre, at the mall. Anywhere that facilitates discussion unhindered by the distraction of a computer screen,” Grant said.

Grant admits the challenge is that social media devices can be helpful to occupy a child’s attention for multi-tasking parents.

While social media might keep them quiet and well behaved, excessive reliance on that tool will lead to a longer term lack of self-control over their actions and emotions, issues an healthy interaction between parent and child would otherwise mitigate.

“Like everything, it’s a matter of balance. If everyone is sitting around the dinner table focused on their electronic device and not interacting, that’s not healthy,” said Grant.

“Just like with food, you need to have a healthy media diet. Even as adults, we can get sucked into directly too much of our own attention to our smart phones or tablets. And then the kids are sitting right beside them doing the same thing.”

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@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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