Have you ever considered the tone or manner in which you speak to Siri, Alexa, or your dictation function? How about your eye contact or countenance while communicating with them? I think it's safe to say that most of us have not, and for good reason- they are not actual people.
As adults, we clearly understand the context in which we are communicating and how it differs from other interactions. However, young children do not necessarily make that same distinction. In doing so, they can actually pick-up some of our tech communication habits not knowing they are inappropriate to use with an actual person. While this is a non-issue for most adults, it is important for parents of preschoolers being that you have a little one who is watching, listening, and learning.
At the preschool, when the children demand something without a please or thank you, and tell us it's okay because mommy and daddy talk to "Sarah" that way, it is difficult for them to understand when we tell them it is not okay. Likewise, when we encourage them to make eye contact or smile, they tend to struggle with seeing the value in them if they are not smiled at or given direct eye contact on a routine basis. A final concern is that when students are asked a question, they ignore us or respond with, "In a minute." When we explain to them that they they are expected to respond to our questions, they are confused.
Ralph Waldo Emerson hit the nail on the head in terms of children and their parents when he said, "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." I think most of us have come to understand the impact our smart phones can have on our attentiveness and engagement with our children, but this is a relatively new finding, which makes one think.
So next time you're requesting directions or information from Siri, remember that little eyes are watching and learning how to communicate. Even if Siri doesn't need the "please" and "thank you," your little ones might!
Written by Katie Donahue, Preschool Director