OPINION

Book Review - Reclaiming Conversation - Family Development

I recently completed reading Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle. Sherry’s position is that the classic, face-to-face conversation is critical to our personal development and communication, but we are dangerously close to abandoning conversation for the lure of digital efficiency and control.

This is part 2/4, see all the parts below:

  1. Personal Development
  2. Family Development
  3. Professional Development
  4. The Illusion of Multitasking Development

Some highlights which particularly resonated with me:

Family development

Regarding teaching children by means of digital simulations:

Time in simulation gets children ready for more time in simulation. Time with people teaches children how to be in a relationship, beginning with the ability to have a conversation.

The unexpected benefits of face-to-face conversation:

Most endangered: the kind in which you listen intently to another person and expect that he or she is listening to you; where a discussion can go off on a tangent and circle back; where something unexpected can be discovered about a person or an idea.

Teaching children about solitude (being comfortable with their own company, self-reflection):

And if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely.

On our roles as parents (and the behaviors we model):

…he takes the long view: “I’m not raising the children. I’m raising the grown-ups that they’re going to be.”… In every culture, young children want the objects of grown-up desire….

On how boredom is a part of healthy development of children:

I said that we use digital “passbacks” to placate young children who say they are bored. We are not teaching them that boredom can be recognized as your imagination calling you.

On how parents can “bless” their children with their attention:

To give children these rewards, adults have to show up, put their phones away, look at children, and listen. And then, repeat.

How to teach children solitude:

Remember that we teach the capacity for solitude by being quiet alongside children who have our attention

Don’t bring your phones to the dinner table, parents:

Given this, it doesn’t make sense to bring a phone to dinner with your children. Accept your vulnerability. Remove the temptation.

A parent’s presence changes a child’s emergency into a learning experience:

A child alone with a problem has an emergency. A child in conversation with a grown-up is facing a moment in life and learning how to cope with it.

Using location-tracking apps may make it easier to know who’s home or not, but it removes the personal connection which powers the relationship in the first place:

Margot is getting what she wants without conversation. But she is giving up a lot. In her family, location dots are calming. There is now no need—and no obvious opportunity—to have difficult conversations about responsibility and trust. Instead of talking, you agree to surveillance.

How we allow our devices to make our relationships shallow, to isolate us from each other:

The irony is that if Alli and her family were separated by distance, if her mother had to work in a different city, they might well be using apps on their phones and computers to bring them together. Dinner might be a time to Skype. Families use social media to keep everyone informed of big events and milestones. But living together, the members of Alli’s family let their devices isolate them.


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