Social and emotional literacy skills are vital components in achieving academic, social and vocational success. The development of social and emotional literacy traditionally occurred within family circles where children learned these skills by watching and imitating their parents, other family members or those within their immediate communities (i.e. preschool, school).  Children still learn by watching and imitating however, with the surge of online options now available, the social and emotional development for many of our children has the potential to be more strongly guided by the influencers and entertainers that they watch on their electronic devices.

As the world experiences the fifth industrial revolution, where technology disrupts and alters how people experience life, children and society at large are challenged to attain and/or sustain the social and emotional requirements that could define a healthy society.  In many ways, families are disrupted by intrusive technology practices that can blunt social emotional wellness and disrupt healthy life patterns (i.e. sleep, physical activity, nutrition).  These are vital life sources that can guard one against the risk of loneliness and/or mental health concerns that can impact the individual (i.e. anxiety, depression) or those with whom they engage (i.e. detachment, avoidance, narcissism, etc.).

The influence of technology has been most felt within the last three generations of civilization.  The Millennials or Gen Y population, born approximately between 1980 to1995, had access to technology and the internet however, their access was limited to specific times or places.  This required planning and effort on their part in order to access the technology.  The IGEN’s or Gen Z population, born approximately between 1995 to 2009, had uninterrupted (i.e. 24 hours 7 days a week) access to the internet where their online presence could become more firmly established.  The Glass Generation or Gen Alpha population, born in 2010 or later, have had the opportunity to have their lives deeply embedded within the sea of technology.  Having grown up in a world of smart phones and high-speed data, they are the most tech infused generation yet; so much so, that the line between reality and digital experiences has the potential to become increasingly blurred.  This youngest generation to date, are likely to become the largest consumers of technology in our world’s history.

What does that mean for us as a society?  Every generation has its strengths and challenges. Every generation has a cultural context in which it grows and develops and raises the next generation.  Technology in itself is not our adversary.  It allows us to access information from the around the world within seconds or provides a variety of avenues for us to stay connected with family and friends anywhere and at any time.  It is fair to say that it is both practical and enjoyable to use.  In fact, one could easily spend every waking moment entertained on their devices looking up random information, gaming, doing work related tasks, scrolling through their social media or socially interacting within other online communities.  For these reasons and more, technology could look like the greatest gift for the advancement of humankind.

However, technology can only take society so far in its personal and professional endeavors.  For example, technology can make society more knowledgeable but not necessarily wiser.  Wisdom, in part, is the ability to apply information appropriately through important elements such as emotional regulation, prosocial attitudes and behaviors, practical life knowledge or experience, reflection, and the ability to see another person’s perspective or deal with the uncertainty of outcome.

In relation to our social connections, technology can offer a plethora of avenues for society to connect with others.  It can make us more connected but not necessarily more socially emotionally grounded in relationships that can be sustained and resilient over time.  This in part, requires self-awareness (i.e. ability to understand thoughts and emotions and how they influence one’s behaviors), social awareness, self-management skills, prosocial skills, and the ability to socially problem solve.  No, technology is not society’s adversary but neither is it the solution for promoting social emotional literacy amongst ourselves or our children.  Relationship is the answer and it can be found as we begin to understand the deep and lasting value of developing the social communication skills within ourselves and our children.

Social communication requires building blocks (i.e. vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, etc.) that allow us to understand and express ourselves in either a verbal or written form.  Social communication requires the ability to successfully follow the conversational rules within an encounter (i.e. social pragmatics).  Social communication requires the ability to use one’s thinking skills to process what is happening within the social interaction.  We are thinking about our own thoughts and feelings, we are thinking about our conversation partners thoughts and feelings and we are thinking about what they might be thinking or feeling about us.  This requires attending to the interaction (i.e. observing our conversation partner), being intentional in how we move through the social interaction, being aware of the emotions that are unfolding and being able to adjust oneself accordingly.  Social communication also involves the ability to use social rules and language (i.e. social niceties) that are appropriate to the situation based on a variety of factors (i.e. age, position, culture).

Social emotional literacy skills are vital components for our children to achieve academic, social and vocational success.  The way to our children’s minds may well be through technology but the way to their hearts will be through relationship; which can be enhanced through the strengthening of their social communication skills.  And it is for this reason that the third edition of the Color My Conversation program and the Color My Story – Finding My Way Through Workbook Series were developed.


For the Children – For the Families – For Society