Plugging your technology-obsessed kids back into reality

Between laptops, smart phones and iPods, America’s youth is more connected today than any other generation.  However, experts worry they lack the ability to really connect.

According to Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of The Engaging Child, today’s teens can barely carry on the most basic conversation, and they often have trouble articulating what they want or need.

“So the only way we learn  our communication skills is by doing it, and we're not doing it,” Kuzmeski said. “[Teenagers are] communicating; they're more social than they've ever been before. But they're not necessarily having that face to face conversation. And the only way we learn it is by practicing.”

In order to get today’s youth to start talking and become more personable, Kuzmeski said that parents should force their kids to engage with others.  In her book, Kuzmeski listed some strategies for getting kids off the computer and into conversation.

- Have them place a restaurant order.

- Help them return an item to a store, especially at a busy time.

- Ask them to set up an appointment.

- Help them to decline invitations.

Kuzmeski also recommended stressing “technology etiquette” – for both children and adults.

“We always say that the human in the room is more important than the technology,” Kuzmeski said.  “So if there's another human in the room, put the phone down – especially if you're eating or if it's a meal.  The parent has to do it first, so that the child knows that they're supposed to do it second. The parent can't do it and tell the child to put it away.”

While the blackberry/iPhone generation may not seem in desperate need of help, Kuzmeski said if parents don’t act now, the children and teenagers that are being raised today will have a rough future ahead.

“They've got to be able to communicate,” Kuzmeski said.  “And if they can't, we're raising a generation of kids that are not going to be able to fit in into the business world…This is absolutely critical.”