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By dint of the unprecedented advancement of technologies in today’s world, people —including children — are now spending more time online and on various social media. This conspicuous change in our habitual behaviors has raised a considerable degree of concern among academicians and experts as well as the masses. Many people argue that our increasing dependence on virtual media has a big impact on our social skills. Evidently, the group most affected by this change is actually the youngest group of humans — our kids. Experts attribute rising depression, anxiety, introversion, etc. among children to their excessive exposure to online media and the virtual world.
However, some researchers suggest a forceful exception to this idea: video chat, a popular online communication platform, can actually be beneficial for children’s social and communication skills. Teresa Gibson points out to this exception suggested by the American Association for Pediatricians in her article “Building Social Skills through Video Chatting?” She, phrasing an expert in her article, suggests that much dependence on the virtual world and online media obstructs a child from necessary physical activities and interactions. However, social interactions are equally important for a child too and video chats can help a child enormously in this regard.
A study conducted by a team at Boston College in 2016 suggests “social contingency” as an important factor behind the aforementioned exception. Video calls enable a child to interact with others on a one-to-one basis, unlike most other online media, which can create a positive impact on a child’s brain development. Although children can learn about others’ points of view and gain perspectives through other online media, video conversations can help them more effectively grasp the contents.
Another strong reason behind the claim is that video conversations help retain relationships and create new ones.
While other ways of connecting, such as online messaging and voice calling, do not expose a child to the postures and gestures made by another individual, video conversations provide this function in a similar manner as in-person conversations. This helps a lot in children’s upbringing, especially when both of the parents have traditional jobs and stay away from home for a considerable portion of the day.
However, video calls alone are not a complete solution, and parents’ participation is important while children engage in video conversations. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests making children’s screen time a shared activity as much as possible. So, the participation of parents and/or other family members with children during video conversations can expedite their learning procedures to a greater extent.
Now, the argument about whether or not screen time in a virtual environment can truly replace face-to-face human interactions are open to discussion. In my opinion, although screen time can be an efficient way of interacting in today’s highly tech-saturated world, it is not a complete alternative to face-to-face human interactions — rather, a close contender.
From my personal experiences, I can affirm that one-to-one in-person interactions possess a stronger sense of connection and affiliation than video calls. Although video conversations do a better job in enabling one to observe and interact with a person than letters, emails, text messages, audio calls, write-ups and so on, they cannot provide one with all the natural advantages that in-person conversations offer. So, despite being more important in today’s contexts, video conversations cannot fully replace face-to-face interactions.
However, the claim that screen time can help children build social skills is, to a certain extent, true.
I, myself, have learned a lot and made important connections from social media as well as shared interest platforms like blog forums and chess sites. The passage of time has altered and shaped what is expected and acceptable from an adult, and this is ever-evolving. Many skills, including a number of social ones, can be acquired by children from the virtual world. If a child is wholly obstructed from these types of interactions, he or she may not acquire all the competent skills required during their adulthood.
Globalization — especially, the spread of the internet — is doing wonders around the world in terms of child education, health, and entertainment. Day by day, more and more technologies are being invented to help foster children’s development in a more refined way. The topics like ethics and online etiquettes are being talked everywhere, and experts are coming up with more sophisticated solutions to better children’s growth and development. These are making screen times more relevant to children’s effective building of necessary social skills.
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