"Friendship? Yes Please."
~ Charles Dickens
Now more than seven decades old, one of the longest continuous studies in the history of American Research is the Harvard Study of Adult Development, and one significant finding from this study is that a key to raising happy children and being happy adults is friendship.
Collecting more objective evidence on the subject than researchers of any other study, The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1937, examining more than 268 physically healthy and "well-adjusted" Harvard sophomores. Following its subjects for more than 70 years, this study has become the preeminent example of a longitudinal study. Including the original study beginning in 1937, the study’s longtime director, George E. Vaillant, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has studied adult development, including the lives of more than 800 men and women for over 60 years. The consistent findings of all of this study show successful relationships are the closest thing researchers have been able to identify as the most significant key to happiness. Positive relationships beginning as early as childhood have shown to be the most important predictors of happiness and success as people age.
Brain science tells us that one way to make and keep friends is to be good at interpreting non-verbal communication. Doing this accurately takes years of experience in face-to-face interaction with human beings, and studies in neurobiology have shown studying and playing a musical instrument increases this ability.
Pausing to highlight two significant things I just said. . .
Doing this accurately takes years of experience in face-to-face interactions with human beings
studies in neurobiology have shown studying and playing a musical instrument increases this ability
Pausing to review what I just retyped. . .
Okay. Nope. Just making sure. Still not there. Text-messaging, internet chatting, status-updating, mp3 player-listening, television-watching, and video game-playing are not there. Interestingly enough, these things don't fall into the 'face-to-face interactions' or 'studying and playing a musical instrument' categories. So now I will pause for you to consider the implications that having increasingly plugged-in lifestyles has on our children's skills in making and keeping friends and, subsequently, on their current and future happiness.
. . .Still considering?
And now I will pause for you to consider the implications that having families and parents and caregivers who fail to recognize, acknowledge, and/or take responsibility for managing technology in their homes has on our children's skills in making and keeping friends and, subsequently, on their current and future happiness.
. . .Still considering?
Children's ability to recognize and respond to non-verbal cues, forge and maintain significant relationships, and build future long-term happiness is being inhibited by texting, online chatting, and the assortment of other technological activities that are being done in front of screens rather than participating in activities or one-on-one face-to-face interactions with live human beings. Sorry, 'Guitar Hero' does not count as playing a musical instrument.
What is it going to take for adults to begin showing concern and accountability for their laziness, apathy, and immaturity in parenting their children and become motivated enough to take action to make necessary changes? Investment in your children's lives is not about dollars and cents. Parenting is an verb, not a noun. Parenting is hard work, emotionally-laden, and a challenge to be the grown-up. Is it easier to give in to badgering about cell phones and game systems and wireless gadgets and gizmos? Is the guilt gone about your long hours at work, or your depressed mood, or having your children grow up watching bickering parents? Is your life "all better" because you didn't risk having your children not 'like' you or see you as 'cool'? More importantly, are your children's lives better? In an increasingly instant-gratification driven society do you sacrifice long-term happiness for 'happy now for now'? Grow up.
Educational success ('Wake Up, It's Time for School') and now lifetime happiness. What will be the next casualty of your teched-out home?
. . .plug in, turn on, and stay tuned.