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Emotional Intelligence and Moral Development

Updated on September 5, 2015

Do Social Networks Interfere with Moral Development and Emotional Intelligence?

Although there is some controversy as to whether emotional intelligence is a valid, measurable intelligence, one of the abilities one needs to become emotionally intelligent (See article on Wikipedia) seems to be the ability to identify, understand, and react to the emotions of others in their social networks. If you click on social networks in that article, you will find that social networks do not necessarily have to consist of people you actually know. Twitter and Facebook illustrate that pretty well. The media also becomes part of our social network as we sometimes have more exposure to TV and radio talk show hosts and journalists -- not to mention entertainers -- than we do to our actual friends, families, and acquaintances. Some researchers believe that watching newscasts and interacting on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter can interfere with our moral development and our ability to discern emotional anguish and respond with compassion. This is said to be especially true of children.

Photo is a screen shot of the top of my Facebook timeline

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Why Might Social Media such as Twitter Retard Moral and Emotional Development?

How do we develop morally and emotionally?

Although we seemingly can detect physical pain in others in a flash, the research indicates that it takes longer for us to let two of the emotions which define humanity -- admiration and compassion -- register in our minds. (See report of research results in UK Telegraph here) As we watch a newscast of an accident or the aftermath of a suicide bomber flash by the screen, it is immediately replaced by another news story about a protest --or maybe even a commercial.

As we quickly scan our Tweets, we quickly go from one snippet to the next, with almost no time to reflect on what we read. We read that a man has just pulled an accident victim from a car that erupts into flames immediately afterward, and then we read the next Tweet about dirty politics. We have not really stopped to reflect on what it meant to the hero or the victim during the rescue, or the fear of the victim before the rescue, or the courage the rescuer showed in the face of danger.

There was no time to reflect. If we do stop to reflect on emotional suffering, we learn to feel compassion, and that emotion will last longer than the brief recognition we have when we recognize physical pain in others. When images and information in our social networks flit by too fast for us to recognize the implications of heroism and emotional pain in others, our moral development is stunted.

So how can we develop more emotional intelligence and moral sense? Researchers say that reading a book or newspaper, rather than just watching a newscast, slows us down enough to let ourselves identify with the actors in the human drama. We have time to let our eyes fully see the details in a newspaper photo and we get a lot more details in an account of several paragraphs than in the few seconds it takes for a newscaster or Twitter to summarize the headlines.

Moral and Emotional Development vs Twitter and the Evening News

From what you've read above, do you believe the speed of news casts and Twitter tweets keeps you from having time to feel compassion for those whose house just burned down or the family who lost both children in a tragic auto accident? Do you think that children who are exposed to too much quick violence and tragedy in small snippets might not develop emotionally as they should? Do you ever get so many tragic news stories so fast that you simply can't absorb their emotional impact, leaving you almost unaffected emotionally yourself?

Does the speed of news reports by radio and TV journalists and Tweeple come too fast for you to really feel their emotional impact?

See results

Here's an Example of How One Teacher in Japan Taught Compassion to His Fourth Grade Class. - As you will see, he is making a special effort to develop moral acc

In these videos, the teacher deals with the grief of bereavement two students have experienced, and he helps them learn to show support and compassion. He also deals with the emotional pain those who are bullied feel. When in one of the videos the teacher lashes out at a problem student and disciplines him in a way the other students feel is unfair, they empathize with and defend him until the teacher relents. The goal of this teacher was not just to teach subject matter, but to also help students develop emotionally and morally.

This Book Will Help Develop Emotional Intelligence

Using Books to Help Children Grow Emotionally and Morally

Reading great books aloud can work at any age

Anyone who has read Little Women will probably remember crying when Beth dies. I even cried when Charlotte the spider died in Charlotte's Web. When we read, we have time to identify with the protagonist and feel along with him or her. Folk and fairy tales introduce children to characters they can empathize with. Children are afraid with Hansel and Gretel. They see injustice in Cinderella's life with her stepmother and stepsisters.

As children get older, they can share the pain of characters who suffer from the death of parents and friends in books like Bridge to Terabithia and On My Honor. I have written long reviews of these books and After the Rain and Out of the Dust, and Walk Two Moons in "Youth Fiction that Deals with Death."

Nonfiction offers other opportunities to admire the courage of real heroes and heroines and develop compassion for those who have suffered. Biographies also give us fodder for discussing all sorts of emotional and moral issues that aren't easy to resolve. One such issue is the legal dilemma Emma Moody faces at the end of Man of the Family in the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody. I will offer you a chance to purchase some of these books in my Amazon module below, along with others I recommend. You probably have your own favorites.

The reason reading at least some of these books aloud is so important is that it gives you a chance to discuss them together with your class or family. That way you can see how the children are responding and you can ask them to share what they think and help them look for clues as to what the protagonists are thinking and feeling. Children will not all respond the same way. Help them "see" body language and "hear" what might not be spoken. Do gestures and actions express feelings one who does not look carefully might miss?

Another book one should not overlook in moral and emotional development is The Bible. Many of the Psalms express grief over sin, anger, helplessness and a range of other emotions. What did Peter feel when he denied he knew Jesus? What did Job experience? What of the courage Daniel displayed when he disobeyed his king, knowing he would be thrown to the lions? How about Abraham when he thought he might have to sacrifice his son? How did Samson feel when Delilah cut his hair and left him powerless against his enemies? So many possibilities in the book of books!

Any well-written piece of fiction will have characters who have moral or emotional struggles. You will probably discover some I haven't read yet. What you want to do is make sure your children are exposed to the best books. As it's been said, "Garbage in, garbage out." Books can both entertain us and help us think. Pick the ones that do both. The more your children can learn about how to understand and communicate with people on all levels, the better they will be equipped to face life as a friend, a spouse, an employer or employee, or a parent.

What do you think? - Please leave your opinion below.

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    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      2 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I hope not, too, but it seems many more people are expressing themselves violently these days, especially the younger ones.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      3 years ago from Canada

      I do wonder if our children are becoming desensitized to violence and emotional responses. I pray not.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @EbooksFreeWeekl1: I don't think I could be a newscaster or journalist, either, if I had to seem unaffected by the bad news I was reporting.

    • EbooksFreeWeekl1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens BarbRad. You know a few years back in a Media class, the teacher said regarding news stories that "if it bleeds, it leads." We were taught the need to be devoid of compassion and emotion or to be completely contained when delivering heart wrenching news. I never grasped that disconnection and opted-out. I see it all the time though.

    • ZenandChic profile image


      7 years ago

      Love this page. I just sold this sticker and noticed your comment at the bottom of the page. Thank you for featuring it here!

    • sheilamarie78 profile image


      7 years ago from British Columbia

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on this, Barb. Great lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      good lens. Reading as well as the arts in general tend to build stronger intelligences in children. In my life experience, as a musician, I have found myself to be noticeably more intelligent emotionally compared to my non-musician friends. There's a "code" of sensitivity in the arts (literature, music, fine art, etc) that students pick up on and construct that awareness, the emotional intelligence.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      this is an excellent lens on some points that should ( an in this lens) are discussed. I think both are linked, and this needs to be promoted.

    • ZenandChic profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for featuring my Plant Seeds of Joy. Blessing this wonderful lens!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      An important discussion -- may I recommend a book that I have: "Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ" by Daniel Goleman.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      9 years ago

      My students seem to fall into two categories, the ones that care to much and the ones that don't care at all. It's worrysome. My children care, but not as much as I do. People are changing and not necessarily for the better.Great thought provoking lens.Thanks for sharing.

    • cjsysreform profile image


      9 years ago

      This is an excellent, important piece of work. Emotional intelligence and the development of true moral understanding in children is not the high priority it should be in our society. I'm lensrolling this to one of my personal pages, My Childhood in Books, as I think it's relevant to your emphasis on reading.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Compassion is something I've had in my heart for as long as I can remember. It wasn't something I was taught but a deep part of my soul that defines me and always has. I'm not sure you can actually teach compassion, although, perhaps a good teacher could awaken a compassion that was there to begin with and only needed to be nurtured. Interesting lens!


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