This rise of technology has benefited us in numerous ways and technology is now accessible to individuals of all ages. It is common to see young children in primary school with cellphones, social media accounts, and laptops. Homework is often completed using a computer and group project meetings often take place using a video conferencing platform. As a result of the significant increase of screen and technology time in children and adolescents, many individuals have began to study how technology could potentially hinder levels of empathy and the connection children and adolescents form with others.
Concerns specifically related to children losing empathy skills and showing decreased levels compassion have been noted and research indicates that there is a significant decrease in empathy within today’s college students compared to past generations of college students. Although many factors may play a role in this phenomenon, it is believed that an increase of technology is a primary factor that has led to the decrease of empathy and compassion within our youth.
Many individuals are asking how can the use of technology, that has ultimately made our lives easier in multiple ways, impact children so drastically. Firstly, the way children learn to identify emotions has shifted, as it is not always possible to read and understand someone’s emotions through a screen via text messaging. It could be said that today’s children are becoming emotionally illiterate due to facing difficulties understanding the emotions of others. Children do not spend as much time together compared to previous generations due to multiple factors; therefore, they tend to focus their social interactions with friends using messaging applications, video games, social media, and video conferencing platforms. Socializing behind a screen impacts the ability to feel emotions with others and share an emotionally experience with someone else. In addition, today’s children and adolescents have more access to celebrity and influencers’ lives through social media, which tends to solely encapsulate the glamorous and positive aspects of their lives. This may impact an individual’s ability to understand that everyone experiences difficulties and hardships despite living a perceived glamorous life. Finally, today’s youth are facing an overemphasis on testing and achieving specific accomplishments, which has made many children and adolescents overly competitive with their peers. Due to the increased pressure and competition, adolescents seem to become more distant with their peers and fail to develop strong, secure, and supportive connections with each other.
Reading this has you probably wondering, “well how can we fix this” or “why is becoming less empathetic a bad thing?” Research suggests that more empathetic children are overall happier and tend to face less conflict. There is not an easy to solution to make others more empathetic, but parents are recommended to limit their children’s time spent using technology and help them learn to self-monitor their screen-time. Additionally, helping children increase their opportunities to socialize with same-age peers in realtime is important and could be done by enrolling them in various activities and encouraging them to see their friends rather than solely relying on message and video conferencing platforms to socialize. If you and your family are facing difficulty managing the use of technology in the home, meeting with a qualified psychologist may help you develop tools and strategies to help your children. Your children may also benefit from meeting with a professional to help them increase their socialization and ability to self-monitor their use of technology. Licensed psychologists at the Miami Psychology Group are currently accepting new patients in the Miami and Miami Beach area.