How are my child's online interactions affecting their offline social skills?

Modern Parenting Tips
February 27, 2021
3 min read

Technology has completely changed the way people communicate with one another. In many instances, social media and other forms of digital communication have eliminated the need for in-person interaction. If you can communicate something through a text or email, why bother taking the time to meet face-to-face?

For the younger generations who have had access to this type of interaction their whole lives, in-person socializing can sometimes feel uncomfortable. Due to the rapid growth of technology, they have had the luxury of planning every response, being able to choose their words carefully, not learning to read body language or deal with awkward in-person confrontations. Technology can interfere with your child’s ability to read social cues, control their emotions or handle in-person conflict. Older generations often struggle with this shift and are concerned that children are lacking the necessary social skills and missing out on face-to-face interactions.

Reading Social Cues

Being able to read social cues will benefit your child’s ability to effectively interact with others. This includes making eye contact, being aware of body language and controlling their tone of voice. Learning to maintain eye contact shows respect and acknowledgment when speaking with someone in any type of situation. Knowing how to control and read others’ body language will help your child better express themselves and the feelings of others. Controlling their tone of voice goes along with the way they control their own emotions when interacting face-to-face. Their tone of voice can greatly influence the reaction and tone of the person they are communicating with. This can either be used to their advantage or cause issues when trying to communicate.

Controlling Their Emotions

If your child is generally someone that gets emotional in certain situations, they must learn how to handle these emotions, especially when having face-to-face interactions. Social situations can bring feelings of stress, embarrassment, shyness or fear. If your child becomes overwhelmed at the thought of in-person social interactions, they may be suffering from a social anxiety disorder. A medical professional can help address their symptoms and come up with a treatment plan to manage these anxious emotions.

Handling Conflict

Handling conflict through digital devices eases a lot of the pressure that comes with in-person confrontation. They can read through the other person's responses over and over in order to formulate the perfect reply. While this type of conflict still brings on certain emotions, they are able to mask them as they hide behind a screen. In addition, your child is unable to see how their responses are making the other person feel. When handling conflict face-to-face with someone, they have to be aware of their own body language, facial expressions and emotional responses all while picking up on the energy of the other person. Fear of face-to-face conflict can show itself as a form of social anxiety, bringing on even more symptoms that can make this interaction uncomfortable. Learning to manage and balance their emotions during conflict is extremely beneficial to the development of their offline social skills.

Benefits Of Online Socialization

While all of these offline social skills are important to the personal development and growth of your child, we do not want to disregard the benefits of online social interaction. When done safely, social media can be used to make new friends while keeping in contact with old ones (especially when social distancing). For many kids, they use the internet and social media as their primary outlet for communicating and comfortably expressing themselves. If they have prioritized the foundation of a positive online environment, they can utilize these platforms as a resource for support and knowledge. They can also become connected with other kids who share similar interests or hobbies. In turn, it can boost their self-esteem and mental health when they feel surrounded by like-minded individuals.

In order for your child to safely take advantage of these online social interactions, we believe your involvement as a parent is necessary. By monitoring their online activity, you can remain informed about the type of interactions they are having through their digital devices. If you see that they are constantly socializing online but avoiding in-person interactions, you can sit down with them to figure out why. Maybe they feel more comfortable behind a screen because in-person interactions cause anxious feelings. Maybe they feel a stronger connection with their online friends than with their friends in real life. Whatever their reason may be, we believe having open conversations can help you gauge their mental health so that they can see the importance of building healthy digital habits.

We believe that raising healthy-minded individuals relies on their ability to build positive relationships. This starts in your home. Teaching them to communicate their emotions and being able to identify contributing factors will be evident in the way they interact with others. Technology continues to grow and we can confidently say that it isn’t going anywhere. As modern parents, you are responsible for instilling these qualities in the younger generations so that they can see the importance of effectively communicating both on and offline.

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