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Lost Opportunities In Every Day Interactions


Marnie, a five year-old came to my office accompanying her mother who wanted to talk to me about her older sister, Jocelyn.

When I went out to greet the mom, Marnie was on some type of head set connected to a small screen device.  Marnie never looked up, never said hello.

The opportunity was lost for that small social pleasantry and interaction of putting out my hand to greet Marnie and ask her a couple of questions about her world.

Marnie continued to spend the whole time quietly with her head set on, swiping her fingers across the screen.  I did not exist as a human being.  There was lost opportunity (for both of us) to practice the “skill of” social interaction.

So much of a child’s world can be framed in an ongoing series of different skills.

For example, some kids have the skill of saying hello and greeting someone for the first time.  Others may have the skill of manners in social interactions by saying “please” and “thank you” – things like that.

The skills of greeting someone or using social manners do not happen naturally.  They are learned and practiced over countless repetitions.

What happens when we shut off the ability to practice these skills? Then there are lost opportunities and the skills simply do not develop.

Later in the day after I was finished with Marnie I went to “Salad Works” for lunch.

A 20-something was in front of me on line.  As she placed her order, “I’ll have spinach.  I’ll have olives…turkey…banana peppers…” I was struck by the fact that there was no “please” or “thank you” mixed in that salad.  The person behind the counter dutifully filling up the woman’s salad bowl did not exist to her.  There was no real human or social interaction.

Maybe the 20-something was just an older Marnie, someone who never had the opportunity to practice essential skills.

There are continual opportunities to practice the skill of ___________  (fill in the blank).  Out of expedience by over undulging kids with screen technologies (iPad, cell phones etc.), parents may be cutting off these opportunities. It certainly is easier having Marnie completely quiet and transfixed on a screen then to deal with the usual four year old behaviors.

It just seems that something is off, though

Takeaway Point

There is balance between having your child connected to their screens and making sure they don’t continually lose the opportunity to practice interacting with humans.  If they are on screens during key moments of interaction (e.g., waiting room greeting), they risk losing skill opportunities that can’t be recovered.

Read more posts by Richard Selznick, Ph.D. here.  Dr. Selznick is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.


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