Emotional Intelligence and Moral Development
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
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?
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.
- Children Full of Life Part 1: Introducing an inspiring teacher in Japan
This entire series of five documentary videos shows a teacher at work in Japan. He has a gift for helping children deal with the problems they face by encouraging them to express their thoughts in writing and to each other. In the process the childre
- Children Full of Life Part 2: How does it feel to be bullied?
Those who view this video will see how the teacher helps his students come to see the effect their bullying and teasing have on the victims and how he helps them to change their behavior to be supportive instead.
- Children Full of Life Part 3: Is This Fair?
In this video the children have learned enough compassion to react with indignation and compassion when the teacher severely disciplines a problem student in a way they think is out of proportion to the offense. They intercede for their disgraced cla
- Children Full of Life Part 4: Dealing with Death in the Family
The teacher announced to the class that one of their number will be absent because his father died in his sleep the night before. The students feel his grief and plan how they will try to make him feel better.
- Children Full of Life Part: Culmination of the Class Year -- a Special Project
In this final episode of the series, the children work hard to think of a special project to end their time together. It's the end of the school year and they will be going their separate ways. They decide to make their project one that will help the
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.