Why We Should Stop Worrying About the Social Skills of Video Playing Kids

Like all teachers and parents of teenagers, I spend a lot of time lamenting the fact that “kids these days” don’t go out and play; they spend all their spare time playing video games. Even on overnights at friends’ houses, the kids appear to be playing more in the parallel play style that you would expect from toddlers – they enjoy one another’s company, but they are just sitting next to each other pressing buttons. All I have hoped for is that perhaps they are developing good fine motor skills, fast typing abilities, and really strong forefingers.

But recently, I have been wondering if I am missing the true picture. Perhaps, the social skills that I think are so very important to success in life are changing. Perhaps, abilities such as recognizing emotional responses in facial expressions will be irrelevant in the near future as more and more people live their entire lives through digital avatars. My particular teaching job focuses largely on helping children to develop their social-emotional intelligence, so this revelation comes at the possible expense of the relevancy of my life’s work.

Outside of mating (for the foreseeable future), people might need a whole different set of social cues and behaviors than the ones I have been teaching. Even conflict resolution may have to be rethought, as people can effortlessly disappear from relationships in conflict and find entirely new social groups to be part of, all without leaving the living room couch.

I don’t think it is up to me to judge that the pro-social skills of previous generations, things like eye contact, smiling and active listening, are more useful than the myriad of emerging social skills needed to successfully navigate a multi-player universe. Trying to get kids to learn socially acceptable body language might be like insisting that they learn how to address envelopes in the email age (something that I learned the other day that most of my 7th graders don’t have a clue about). The old fashioned communication skills that I teach might be doomed to the realm of cursive writing in the keyboard age, something that most schools have already abandoned teaching.

So, I think that maybe we should step back from the fear that by not learning our skills our children will suffer, and pay more attention to the skills that they may actually be using in their virtual friendships, rivalries and love affairs.

Look beneath this flower to find out how children see adults:



21 Responses to Why We Should Stop Worrying About the Social Skills of Video Playing Kids

  1. Samir Hafza says:

    The concern about lack of social skills (rightly or wrongly) should pale in comparison to our concern about U.S. children gaining more adiposity.

    According to a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day. This sedentariness, combined of course with the unhealthy diet, is the reason why American kids are getting more and more obese at an earlier age.

    Imagine the host of health problems that are being generated. Imagine children being treated for high blood pressure and other diseases previously not seen until adulthood. Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona characterized the threat like this: “Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”

    In this part of the world we are catching up with U.S. obesity rate. Similarly, British kids are getting fatter at twice the rate of U.S. kids. Unless stricken by famine, it is reasonable to expect that every country in the world will see a similar trend.

    I think the day is fast approaching when it’ll be acceptable and expected to see plump women on the cover of Cosmopolitan and in the centerfold of Playboy. Skinny women no longer.


    • EricIndiana says:

      Yes, I was thinking about the obesity & lack of exercise problem when I wrote that piece, but I wanted to keep a narrower focus. Actually, TV is just as bad – maybe worse, since there’s no Wii on the TV where players are expected to move.


      • Samir Hafza says:

        You’re right about television watching. In the Kaiser study, T.V., along with video games and others, was in fact included as part of the “entertainment media” which consumed 7:38 hours of the kids’ daily time.


  2. l0oree says:

    My son now 13 likes to go to planet fitness with me. We were going three times a week before my move. Now that we moved across town here one month this week, still getting settled. We put together a small ecosystem of fish and just sat and watched the guppies neons seethrough catfish and sucker fish and gramaler. And yes I am concerned about my son.s social skills. Just today the art teacher told me my son did not appear to want to work in a group with the others students. My son told me was the first cool project in the class that he was interested in doing and all the kids in the group decided to make it lame. An island named tinsel town with the motto tons of fun. My son is the type that just told me last week he is interested in building ecosystems that some day could survive in outerspace. So my son wanted to go all out and create a real survive able ecosystem on the island. It was a let down for him and he showed his disappointment so much that he left the group went to the corner of the room and started reading his book The Son of Neptune.


  3. l0oree says:

    Just a thought for those that some times do not get my thinking in what I write. Sorry I tend to write between the lines so to speak. Am island to have a peaceful ecosystem that nothing becomes extinct everything has to cohabitate like get along?


  4. l0oree says:

    So in fact my sons idea would of been sort of a teaching model to the whole class including the teacher on how to work together and coincide hence his severe disappointment.My son did not take the punishment so hard though for I told him this morning before if left the house if I hear of him reading the book during class I would take it away. So while the teacher was telling me me”I had to take away his book”My son was laughing. Next perception of crazy might be next.


  5. l0oree says:

    I am sure some where on that island he would of included a tinsel town.


  6. l0oree says:

    So his teacher is all on me saying my son needs to get along and work together in a group while my son only wants to make peaceful resolutions even at the cost of him getting his favorite book taken away flunking art class due to he gave in let the others do there thing and left the project totally to the group.
    Sometimes my children are my heroes. I look up to them and not down. There little minds and the things that they are passionate about amazes me.


  7. l0oree says:

    My big concern Is my son too smart for his own good or maybe smart enough for the good of everybody?


  8. l0oree says:

    Wow that Is my own words right back a myself. My son Is becoming even Greater than me better than me and that makes me smile so big. That Is so worth the investment for sure. When we left the school I drove straight to petco and purchased 100 dollars in fish and supplies.


  9. You just reminded me that I have to go hassle my 13 year old to write a thank you note…

    I can’t even get into the whole TV/video game thing because…I have strong opinions that are usually best kept to myself. I do think video games (the non-killing/gore/bloodshed kind) are the lesser of the two evils, because at least then they are DOING something. Wait…did I say I was keeping my opinions to myself?! Dag nab it. Oh well. That was still mild compared to my usual…


    • EricIndiana says:

      My son is obsessed with two games that I like: Minecraft, where he and friends just build things all day – houses, castles, anything. It seems like a good way to think about architecture and think in 3-D. The other one is portal where you go through challenges by blasting a hole in a surface and a companion hole in another surface; the two holes are connected so when you walk through one you come out the other – anywhere, in the floor, ceiling, wall. It really stretches your thinking geometrically. Plus it has a good sense of humor about it.

      But the kids I teach only play killing games.


  10. Did social skills become less relevant when people stopped living in tribes of a couple dozen people? When cities arose with independent living quarters? . . . With the development of the telephone?

    I think it’s just the opposite — face-to-face social skills will become even more important with the rise of Skype-like video conferencing.

    My son is a software engineer in his mid 20s. He could live anywhere he wants to do the work, but he feels he needs to be in team headquarters because the personal interaction has such high bandwidth that it cannot be replaced by electronically-mediated communication. He needs to wad up a piece of paper and throw it at someone’s head.

    Companies always put smart people together in a room. Fewer people sit on an assembly line. More people work in teams.


  11. l0oree says:

    My son has an idea book with 4 different game movie ideas or cartoon with the plot story lines characters hand drawn pictures all lined out it is so cool could also become a book on its own as am idea book for whoever reads it could just have fun and fill in and create whatever else kind of like the 39 clues books . Each one written by a different author.


  12. l0oree says:

    Son just learned recently Cornell started a game design degree. He is so gifted I have no doubt on him to be able to do whatever if wants. Does anyone know how much Cornell cost?


  13. l0oree says:

    I realize my spelling is atrocious. I am on my bell using predictive text.


  14. l0oree says:

    Oops my cell thinks of ma bell when I am texting about a phone.lol


  15. l0oree says:

    Also what you are saying about the media, I agree too much killing games and other media as well. While my children were growing I never let them watch any movie news or television show without my presence and open communications to ask away anything they wanted to know about them. Yes I also went with the rateing system. When children were under age only rated g and then I gradually moved up to the parental guidance ones. While I was in lpn school the only channel on my television I could even get was pbs. The way cool thing about that style of parenting is that you learn from the children more than them learning from you after a short time. I am rambling again lol. My son saw you could count on one hand at the box office a rated pg 13 movie before the age of 13. I have realized for quite some time that not many abide by the rating age thing.


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