Sunday, March 02, 2008
What Happened To Our Children's Social Skills?
I read an article in my local section of Newsday about how little today's children play with each other and it reminded me of my preteen, tween, and teen years. Presently, the boys seemed to be always playing video games while the girls are usually on their cellphone or on the Internet. With the heightened awareness of strangers trolling after our children has resulted in adult supervised play. Soccer, Dance, sleepovers, basketball are all adult supervised activities. Gone are the days that the children will come home, drop their books, and go play with the neighbourhood children. Now it is going on the Internet, watching TV, talking on the cellphone, or playing video games. There is very little social interaction, except by electronic means.
During my preteen and early teen years in the Bronx, I used to drop off my school books and meet my friends to play outside. At times, I would take my little sister along and she would always run into people she knew in the park. My friends and I would play a range of games such as box ball, stoop ball, skully, punch ball, and stick ball. We always found other children at the park to play with or against. We learned to negotiate when choosing sides, auguring plays and know when to stop teasing so the teased child wouldn't cry (or not cry so much). Were there fights and loud arguments? Of course there were, that is how we learned our social skills. With no adults around we had to work it out ourselves.
During nights with no school and in the warmer weather all the kids in the neighborhood would play hide & seek, Ring-a-leveo, or capture the flag. In this case I can proudly say we practiced "no child left behind" No thought was given to what might happen to us and nothing did, except for an occasional older teen giving us a hard time. Were we naive? Probably, however, this is how we played in the city. These social skills were necessary and evolved in even the shyest children, as they learned that they would be selected and be part of the group and feel important.
As a tween I was very much into stick ball and played it almost all the time on schooldays. The stick ball court (a wall with a box drawn on it) was about two blocks from my house and everybody in the neighborhood would hear my mother yell from the sixth floor kitchen window "Eric it's time for dinner". The stick ball game was over and the kids playing in the park knew it was 6:00pm, time to go home. Yes my mom had a very loud voice, you can hear it for three blocks or about 600 feet into the park, including the playground. Who needed cellphones when my mom was the the best communicating device in the neighborhood!
Now we watch our children get together in adult supervised organized play with the adult doing the picking and telling the children what to do. Where are the games that the children play in which they can develop their social skills? Is it any wonder that cooperative learning is a tough concept for the student to handle? You must have social skills if you want the students to work together. I find these social skills sorely lacking and worry about this generation as they approach adulthood.
By the way, most of my punch ball games were played in the school yard during recess and lunch. The school yard now has trailers in it and the students are stuck in the cafeteria or their classroom. See a problem?