April showers bring May flowers as well as the celebration of Better Hearing and Speech Month.
As a speech therapist and founder of Great Speech, I welcome the flowers as well as the opportunity to promote the connection between hearing and speech and the strides we have taken to improve communication.
A recent study published by The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has some major concerns about our communication skills being hampered by technology.
Remember how we used to chat at the dinner table and enjoyed fun activities in the car? The access to technology has changed our behavior. We are now “plugged in and checked out.” The study points out that family members are texting each other while they are all home. Fifty percent check their phones at dinner and 67 percent are on their device during family leisure time. Equally as disturbing, 55 percent of teens state there are no rules limiting tech usage, which can be up to five hours a day.
Why all the fuss about our lack of chatting? Having conversations plays an important role in developing language, social and listening skills. In addition, to hampering our language development, phone addictions can damage your hearing.
The remedy: The Digital Diet. The rules? I think moderation is the key. Find a system that is palatable to your family and enforceable. Research shows that parents, particularly millennial parents, when informed of the risks, are willing to change their habits.
The best way to create “the diet?”
- Have a family conversation.
- Use visuals for younger children and teach the concept of “earning tech time.”
- With older kids, the family roundtable promotes mature conversations and helps develop executive functions skills- organization skills, prioritizing, and setting self-limits, important skills necessary to function as successful adults
Technology can be used to improve our lives. We can now explore resources, jump on new learning initiatives and my personal favorite, provide therapeutic intervention through telemedicine.
Think about the limited medical access people have who live in remote areas or those who are homebound because of weather or physical conditions. In my profession, speech therapy can now be easily integrated into our daily routine without the hassle and inconvenience of traveling. Technology also provides access to highly specialized and qualified therapists by removing geographical barriers.
There can be a happy balance.
Embracing the Digital Diet on an individualized level can help bring old fashioned conversation back to the dinner table. And new technology will continue to remove geographical barriers and allow us to access new places, foods and people and flowers.
Who is ready to implement the Digital Diet?