Disrespect? Or Just a Lack of Social Skills?

Social media has produced a communication boom.  Never before have young people communicated so much.  The average teenager spends about 10 hours in front of a screen every day and checks their social media accounts 150 times during a 24 hour period.  Much of this time is spent socialising, but disengaged from real world relationships.

There has been a dramatic shift in the way young people socialise.  What used to happen over the phone or face to face now happens through games and social media platforms.  There are many ways this is affecting them, but today I want to focus on its impact on their social skills.

Social skills are loosely defined as the skills people need for successful social communication and interaction.  These skills provide young people with the ability to get along with others and create meaningful, sustainable relationships.  There are three underlying social skills – seeing, thinking and doing.  These skills are outlined in Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D.’s article “What are social skills?”.

Over the past 18 years of my career I have seen an increasing amount of young people struggle with seeing, thinking and doing what is appropriate in their relationships.  I am not talking about young people who suffer from Autism.  I am talking about general high school students’ whose ability to relate to peers, parents and authority is declining.

Here are some questions I received last night while speaking at a local high school:

– What do you do if your teen walks away in the middle of a conversation?
– What if your teenager doesn’t care about consequences or what I say?
– What do you do when your child expects you to wait for her all the time?
– How do you let bad behaviour happen when a younger sibling is crying?
– How do I stop my 14 year old son from beating me up?

Aren’t all these disrespectful actions a lack of social skills?  At the very least they are a young person’s choice not to use the social skills they may have acquired?

If you feel like there is a problem with the way your children talk to each other (and talk to you), you are not alone.  This generation struggles with disrespect.  I believe one of the reasons is the amount of time they spend on gaming and social media platforms where poor social skills are modelled for them.  They are focussing on seeing, thinking and doing relationships in cyber world with profiles rather than real people. This has to impact them.

Our young people actually have to learn to have meaningful connections because they have grown up in a world where connection happens behind a computer screen.  Connection behind a computer screen doesn’t teach them real life social skills.

What our kids need more than ever is a real relationship with their parents.  Mum, Dad, show them what a meaningful connection looks like.  Be an example to them and put away the iPad or iPhone and talk to them.  Our teenagers are wired to seek a personal relationship with us.  If they aren’t finding a relationship with us at home, they will find connection elsewhere.

THANK YOU to everyone who has been passing these blog posts on, and for all your kind emails about their impact on your family.  If you have a topic you would like me to blog about email me at reception@youthexcel.com.au  and I will respond to it as soon as I can.

If you would like to book me to speak at your school or community event email reception@youthexcel.com.au.

MOST IMPORTANTLY if your teenager needs support from a psychologist, counsellor or mentor Youth Excel would love to help. You can contact me at reception@youthexcel.com.au.

What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.

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