I watched the table next to me as the mom attempted a conversation with her son. Probably around 14 or 15 years old, big headphones hugging his neck, hood over his head, back rounded, hands holding an iPhone, fingers tapping wildly, he nodded and grunted responses to his mother…
But he never picked up his head to look at his mother in the eyes.
My heart ached as I watched this mother passively succumb to her son's Gen Z's approach to life.
I also felt alarmed as I thought about my sons.
The Real Impact of Technology
I won't deny my children technology use. I won't helicopter their technology use.
I will try to guide their self-regulation a la Montessori style. That is the critical point: self-regulation.
So what does that mean? Using technology as a means of effective communication is likely going to end in failure.
We all see it.
People texting one another while in the same room.
Inability to read social queues including facial expressions and body language.
The result? A lack of social intelligence. In other words, an inability to sustain healthy relationships with friends, family, and partners. As people lose the ability to read one another without verbal expression (or without emojis) there will be incessant miscommunication and a dulled sense of how to talk and to relate to other human beings.
The Term Coining the Impact
The term is called “Flat Affect.”
The term is not a new one but just hasn't been readily applied to, well, teenagers across the board. Typically the term is used to describe schizophrenic behavior, autism, or a brain injury. Depression is also related to “flat affect”, which can be readily connected to young people (middle schoolers and high schoolers).
Here are a few definitions and descriptions that I found:
- “A person with flat affect may appear unresponsive to the world around them.”
- “A severe reduction in emotional expressiveness.”
- “…have diminished facial expressions, and appear extremely apathetic. “
Are we at risk of a “sophisticated but increasingly soulless high-tech world”?
Will our children be unable to develop authentic, deep relationships with friends, family members, partners?
What about their own self-image and self-identity? Will it be reduced to emoticons and acronyms?
What do you think?