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Is the Art of Conversation at Risk?

I’ve written several posts on “The Anatomy of Conversation” to give some food for thought about conversation development. There are skills children learn to begin, expand and end a topic. Now we can begin to look at the bigger picture and connect these skills to academic performance, social skills, family (and maybe even world peace if I let myself stretch a bit too far on this).

Conversation skills really do reach across and impact many many areas of life

I’ll start (or continue, for those that have been along for the ride of this series) with the current trends that speech-language pathologists, among other professionals, have been noticing.


Conversation skills are deteriorating more and more with each new generation of screen addicts coming up

Specialists are now acknowledging the trend at professional conferences. Kindergarten teachers are seeing that the children have noticeably less book and story experiences than previous generations. There is significantly less quality family time than ever before. Increased screen time and over-scheduled lives have interfered with the time spent in conversation. Naturally with less opportunities there is a price to pay in quality of outcome.

Look at the increase in bullying. (Obviously kids have many more pressures and potential underlying reasons for this) but think about the social skills needed to navigate misunderstandings, take another’s perspective, develop empathy and compassion. These skills are all learned through direct interaction, not from TV or playing video games with friends through remote locations. Even typically developing kids are having more difficulty navigating social interactions than ever before.

Texting has replaced many verbal conversations over recent years

It’s NOT to say that texting or other screen time is bad in itself. It’s the decrease in face-to-face contact that comes with the hefty price tag in quality development. It’s the absence of body language, facial expression and even tone of voice that makes communication today in general a bit less, well….less human.

Parents are on their screens and kids are on theirs so there’s less time spent in conversation within the home. In some families the schedule is so busy even daily routines such as a family dinner are fragmented. In those situations the opportunities for in-depth conversations are minimal at best. These are the very same experiences that children NEED to learn different points of view and to learn verbal problem solving for daily challenges. These experiences are necessary for children to learn to tell their own stories or events from the day.

Kids still learn how to talk but the complexity is reduced and many of the less obvious social rules may be left a bit rough around the edges.

Social media and texting has changed communication drastically. Even though the conveniences of texting are apparent, the connection to the deterioration of conversation skills might not be as obvious. There’s untapped value added to unplugging and spending time in a variety of discussion topics that arise. Remember those “old fashioned” word games people used to play on road trips or a snow day? Dig them up! (or buy a collection for $3 Unplugged Road Trip)

From the back seat of my own car I’ve heard my children and their friends jump to the wrong conclusions, misunderstand the speakers intent and be quick to criticize each other because of some nuance of the conversation they didn’t understand.

Some people are making life choices to once again prioritize family time over busy schedules by getting back to basics.

This includes slowing down long enough to have enough down time to have good quality conversations that re-connect family, friends and neighbors.

Pamela Talbot

Pamela is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist dually certified as a teacher of the hearing impaired. She is a Listening and Spoken Language LSLS-AVT. Pamela has extensive experience training parents and professionals at the international level.