My heart is touched everyday when I see babies and toddlers in strollers being pushed by what appear to be well meaning, good-hearted nannies and sometimes moms or dads. Their heads are pointed down at a screen. They are walking past interesting animals, trees people buildings but the only conversation is with the person on the other end of the phone or on the screen.
We are all tempted moment by moment to see who emailed; look at the text; play the game; check the news. Even our young children are looking at screens a good bit of the time.
Babies are learning every second but they may not be learning from us, or the people we hire to be our surrogates while we are at work or are unable to be with our children for periods of time.
There is a special bond that every child needs that has to do with eye contact, touch, hearing the sound of their caregivers voice in conversation with them. Being engaged by a consistent caregiver is one of the fundamental ways that babies and young children form attachment, learn how to be relational and understand the pauses and responses in conversational language.
Language development begins at birth. We name colors, shapes, moods, foods, etc., etc. When we are out in the world with our babies, toddlers and young children, they are seeing everything with fresh eyes. When we choose to see with them we have the exciting opportunity to see things anew as well. Relating to our children about what is around helps them to identify what we collectively see and know; helps us become relational beings; creates a joy in seeing and knowing. When we take the human connection out of the learning we lose relationship and connection.
Language development has its roots in eye contact and communication of facial features as well as sounds and words. Literacy and creative thinking all stem from the connection of the voice, word and image. Talking with babies about the bird singing in the tree or the car stopping at the light gives them information. Seeing how the world is relational helps creative and logical thinking.
It is not just about babies. We as a society are at risk for the loss of a fundamental element of communication and interaction. We send the quick email rather than pick up the phone; we IM instead of have a face to face conversation. We carry on long conversations without the sound of a voice, facial interaction or recognition of real time facial expression. Thank goodness for Skype!
Don’t get me wrong … I love my technology! … but I also love our babies, our future, and our relational selves. A little face to face goes a long way.