Better Technology, Poorer Communication

When was the last time you had a conversation with your son or daughter about issues of importance? Do you know who your children are as people? Do you know what they think, what they ...

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When was the last time you had a conversation with your son or daughter about issues of importance? Do you know who your children are as people? Do you know what they think, what they value, what they believe in?

Communication is a very complex dynamic. We all know how to talk, how to manufacture words, but we do not necessarily have the skills for effective communication. Too often, we talk at one another, not with one another.

Engaging one another in a real conversation means risking being vulnerable. It means being open to listening to things you may not want to hear, but nonetheless, you must be willing to respect what is being said.

Many of us grew up in loving homes, but when we were children, the parental attitude was children should be seen and not heard. Rarely was our position on an issue sought. If we were given an opportunity to express ourselves, more often than not our perspective was dismissed because we were kids, and what did we know!

In the poignant film, Dead Poets Society, there is a powerful exchange at the end of the film between the character, Neil Perry, a seventeen year old senior at the Welton Prep School and his Dad.

Neil was the star in a local play. He took the role behind his father s back. He got a standing ovation for his final performance. Unbeknownst to him, his Dad was standing in the back.

His Dad cornered him on his way out of the theater. When they got home, Mr. Perry told him that he was withdrawing him from Welton Academy and enrolling him in military school for the rest of his senior year. Neil was devastated!

Neil finally stood up to his Dad, but his Dad shot him down immediately. They went off to bed. His father hears a gunshot and is startled. He calls out to his son, but receives no response. The Dad gets up and goes to look for Neil. He reaches his study and smells gun smoke in the air. Then he sees his son lying on the ground on his study, behind his desk with a small revolver next to him. The Dad becomes hysterical!

As the film draws to a close, the nontraditional teacher, Mr. Keating, is being blamed for Neil Perry s suicide. Neil s friends are pressured into signing a document detailing the facts of what happened during their senior English class. Unfortunately, the facts were distorted.

The film is an interesting social commentary on traditional education and its failure to empower students to be honest and critical thinkers. It also makes a strong statement as to how parents shouldn t parent their children.

The blatant lack of communication between father and son in this film is extremely painful.

We live in a time in history where communication technology makes instantaneous communication almost normative. We have cell phones, blackberries, instant messaging, text messaging, faxing and e-mail. Even with all of this communication, communication between parents and their children is severely impaired. We have better technology, but poorer communication skills. Parents still talk at their children and children still zone out from their parents!

How many parents reading this column know whether or not their son or daughter has a Facebook or MySpace account on the internet? Do you know what s on it? Are they posting age-appropriate material?

When do you and your children communicate about what is really important in their lives? Do you share a family meal on a regular basis? Do you have a family night without distractions? Do you try to create an environment that welcomes your children to hang out?

Has our internet technology replaced genuine face-to-face human contact? The speed and accessibility of technology make it difficult to establish reasonable boundaries that everyone can live with.

Less than fifteen years ago, conversations were face to face. On rare occasions, there was phone contact, or better yet, written letters between people. Those days are long gone. Today it is routine to chat with friends via instant messaging and texting, while searching for a movie.

Our teenagers spend an extraordinary amount of time on the internet. It is pretty startling that these teenagers are in touch with friends everywhere on line. They can be in touch all the time, anytime. They have the capacity to broadcast from work and to engage a large number of young people. However, they still struggle with some very basic life issues.

A social network can be very positive. It can provide people with a positive network and positive connections.

Basically, a social network is a website or group of websites that were designed to create on line communities where teens can directly or indirectly interact with each other. This technology is growing at a rapid pace and is changing people and families exponentially. The social change is profound. Like any change, it is difficult to know what the real consequences will be down the road.

What is imperative is that we all take notice and realize that this rapid change in technology is going to change family dynamics, relationships, education, business and society in general.

Teens think of e-mailing as a tool for communicating with adults, such as teachers. Meanwhile, texting and instant messaging are used for every day conversation. Technology is making the world smaller and bringing people together, but is destroying our students already weak grammar and writing skills. This technology has a vocabulary all its own.

Whether we like it or not, technology is not going to disappear. It s going to continue to change at a rapid pace and present us with even greater challenges in the future.

As parents, we need to monitor what our children are doing, where they re going and who they re talking to on the internet. It is imperative that we learn the lingo and how to use this technology.

My caution is not to let this positive technology replace human contact and human communication between people. We must continue to touch, meet face to face and strengthen our family ties. We must talk to our kids about this technology. For the most part, they know more than we do. Make sure they realize how dangerous it can be to send out personal information on the internet. If your children are under twenty-one, you should have their passwords.

There are many websites that can help you educate yourself. The GRQ Innovations, Inc. website,, under Internet Safety Resources, has an extensive list of helpful websites.

Don t let the new fast paced technology further impair our communication with our children. Rather, let it be an opportunity for building better and more meaningful communication between us!