Empathy — the ability to recognise and understand another person’s feelings — is an extremely important life skill and is a basic part of human nature. Today our kids are growing up to be far less caring and compassionate that any previous generation and it is the basics that are missing: courtesy, conversation and appreciating simple pleasures. Technology is undeniably a major factor in the decline of empathy.
Lack of empathy has negative impacts on the basic nature because the child doesn’t know how to fully read and understand the emotions of others around him, they don’t realise or don’t care that they are disturbing fellow students and upsetting the teacher and with more students showing selfish qualities and with increases in traits it can lead to a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.
It’s very hard to be empathetic and feel for another human being if you can’t read another person’s emotions. You don’t learn emotional literacy facing a screen or through emojis or if you’re looking down and texting. Another factor is the “self esteem movement” and its pernicious notion that “you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself” or having your happiness tied to theirs was “co dependence”, and that people should be able to be happy on their own, needing no one. Perhaps an even larger factor is the merging of the left’s “do your own thing” individualism with the right’s glorification of competition.
Just as there’s no shortcut for parenting, there’s no quick solution for building up empathy. It takes a lot of conversation and role modelling and working on emotional skills. It takes commitment and intention and finding a good balance with technology and screen time is great place to start.
The key thing is to recognise the value of relationships and the fact that we are not independent but interdependent. We all need each other. We’re actually both happier and healthier if we’re kind. Prioritise face-to-face conversation over devices by putting phones and tablets out of site during meals. Technology is undeniably a hugely important part of modern communication, but we can’t let the phone or computer change the fact there are real humans on the other side of that screen.