Social norms may have shifted in the digital age, but in a time when it is easier to simply email or text, what “people” skills should children still need to learn?

Plenty, particularly for tweens and teens on the cusp of adulthood who will soon be interacting with others in the real word, according to Carol Carpenter, school counseling director at A.G. Wright Middle School in Stafford.

“At the middle school level, it is critical that students continue to develop and fine tune appropriate social skills,” Carpenter said. “However, this can be difficult since children are wired in almost 24/7. Many adolescents spend too much time on their cell phone or behind a computer screen. With the increased use of technology, it is easy for our children to lose that ‘human-touch’ aspect of life that is so important. Empathy for others, generosity, and how to interact with others in a positive manner is so important.”

teens tabletChildren should know how to start a conversation face-to-face, including how to maintain eye contact and use appropriate body language, as well as how to read the body language of others and actively listen.

“Having appropriate social skills allows them to make connections, develop and maintain friendships,” Carpenter said. “Practicing these social skills will actually increase your child’s self-confidence.”

With the increased use of technology, it is easy for our children to lose that ‘human-touch’ aspect of life that is so important.

Parents can assist children in developing proper social skills in a number of ways, particularly by modeling positive behavior and exposing their children to different social situations.

“Have your child introduce themselves to your co-workers, neighbors and friends with you,” Carpenter said. “Make them shake hands with them. Remember, it is important not to speak for them when someone asks them a question. Take them shopping and let them purchase items with the cashier so they can interact with them.”

Your child can practice skills in front of the mirror or at the dinner table. Participating in extra-curricular activities, volunteering in the community, and engaging with people of all ages and backgrounds also helps.

“They need to learn how to talk and interact not only with their peers but with adults as well,” Carpenter pointed out. “Learning and fine tuning these social skills will be beneficial in the future as well. They need to feel comfortable and confident when talking with adults as they apply for jobs and go through the interview process. These skills are beneficial in the college admissions interview. These social skills are really life skills.”