She’s eleven years old, soon turning twelve. She loves her phone which carries all her favourite tv- and youtube-series, her music lists, her social media apps and of course all the phone numbers to friends and family. But even with all this, she has a hard time connecting. Not with the internet, but with new friends.
You know, when you meet with a possible new friend, it is always so stiff. I never know what to talk about. We just stand there, looking at each other. Sometimes, if I have invited someone I don’t know so well to come over, we end up just playing some game on our phones. Side by side. But not talking.
And then she makes the comparison.
I have so much fun with my friend L. We know each other for so long. I think that is why we can actually play. We play childish games. Like agents, or, we make brews out of leaves and stuff. We can talk about anything. We just have fun.
I think this is pretty interesting. It’s like she knows that something has changed and her analysis is spot on. The relations have changed. Between kids, between adults. Everybody’s in it. You have a friend in your pocket, thus you don’t have to engage in conversation. You don’t have to feel awkward.
When I listen to kids today, I find that many have a hard time simply asking basic questions. They don’t know how to keep a dialogue going. It seems they don’t share their life in real time – perhaps life is now reserved for social media…
The screen reflects who you are. The screen can be used as past time, a saftey net and somewhere to simply fix your gaze. Of course, this is no news. We have seen it coming. We have debated it enough.
The way we adults plunge into our devices as soon as we have a moment to spare. How we organise everything through this little piece of tech, tells our children that it’s important. They mimic us, They are, in fact, our own screen reflections.
In order to help our kids understand how you can get to know others – how a meeting between human beings occur and develop into something more, we need to show it to them. And I think this is important – that we need to show how to go about it. Many parents simply shout at their kids, telling them to turn of their phones. But why should they? Parents are themselves totally engulfed in their devices. This is what life looks like now. Shouting at the kids won’t work.
So, how will our children be able to make those life long friends, if they are stuck watching videos side by side, instead of experiencing the magic of roaming the neigbourhood together, finding treasures and teasing old, grumpy men?
If we engage in conversations with our kids. If we ask them questions, no phone present, and wait for the answer, we might be able to steer them back on track to becoming functional social beings.
Some people might be born with it – how to connect and stay connected IRL – but some have to learn social conduct from peers and parents in order to succeed.
I, for one, believe in connecting. I think that is what makes the world turn. Without social relations, we are nothing. We can’t go anywhere, feel anything, be anything, without connecting.
Yeah, games can be social, chats can be rewarding. Texting is great and the internet is a revolution. But, seeing another human being – watching how your words and your actions affect that one person by looking them in the eye, surpasses everything that can possibly happen online.
It makes life life. It makes you a human and it centers you in the world.
I want that for my children. Do you?