On the surface it looks like the ISC Charity Club is about exposing children to local charities, which of course it is. However, the really exciting thing about our club is that it teaches children a couple of the most powerful things in the world: empathy and inter-personal communication skills.

I think of it as emotional education. So, why’s that important?

Technology has developed exponentially over the past decade changing the way so many of us communicate.  I see people texting while walking, at dinner, at school, on the bus, at home… Is there anywhere people don’t text? By 2010 the world was sending more than 173,000 texts per second1. And, that was five years ago!

In an article I recently read, Dr. Kate Roberts, a Boston-based school psychologist, said “People who increasingly rely on technology to communicate are paying a heavy price society is just beginning to understand.” Read that one more time: “People who increasingly rely on technology to communicate are paying a heavy price society is just beginning to understand.” She goes on to say, “Families text rather than have conversations. We’re living in a culture of sound bites, and that is not developing our verbal skills or our emotional intelligence. We’re down on the interaction time. Right now, at Boston College, there’s a course on how to ask a person out on a date. It’s like we’ve lost the skill of courtship and the ability to make that connection.”

Whoa: A class on dating? It was scary having to call someone for a date, but you had to. There was no easy way out. What’s making today’s kids make those difficult personal interactions?

As a Mom of three, I despise “screen time” as it always seems to cause fighting and tears amongst my kids. I’m afraid of its negative effects. And it’s not just the kids. Adults are also guilty.

Dr. Jenny Radesky is a pediatrician specializing in child development. When she worked at a clinic in a high-tech savvy Seattle neighborhood, Radesky started noticing how often parents ignored their kids in favor of a mobile device. She remembers a mother placing her phone in the stroller between herself and the baby. “The baby was making faces and smiling at the mom,” Radesky says, “and the mom wasn’t picking up any of it; she was just watching a YouTube video.”2 I’m guessing we’ve all witnessed something like this in the past couple of week. I know I have.

If I could get rid of it all together, I would! I probably sound like my parents’ generation when computers started being more widely used. But, sometimes I really think it would be better. Just back-up technology about ten years. At the same time, I know that this newer form of communication isnt’ going anywhere and that there are many positives that have come from the technological advances. So, my kids and I have to set technology boundaries and learn that there’s a time and place for it. But, is it enough?

I am determined to raise kids who can develop deep relationships, who have empathy and compassion and can communicate the old fashion way: talking face-to-face, making eye contact, reading physical cues as to how the conversation is going and so on.

This determination and desire to raise kids with empathy, compassion and inter-personal communication skills is built into the foundation of the I Support Community Charity Club and is incorporated into the curriculum. Each lesson plan is comprised of activities created to teach specific skills and cover community concepts that help expand students’ perspectives.  We’re aiming to create charitable experiences where they connect emotionally to a cause or organization and can relate that information back to their own lives.

Celebrate Difference Vision Activity

We ask children to explain things like how it feels to be hungry, to not be able to see clearly, and to only have a backpack to hold all of their possessions.  Not only do we discuss these topics, we have the children watch a video of children their age explaining what it is like to be sent home with a backpack of food for their family for the weekend, and we conduct activities such as wearing foggy goggles to experience a physical disability.  We reflect on what they’ve learned, encouraging them to ask questions and share their feelings.  We also work together to perform mini-service projects, as planned with our upcoming club activity to create blankets and welcome cards for refugees.

We’re teaching children to understand and be compassionate of others, developing their emotional intelligence through lessons on local charities that will build happier, healthier children who will also have a desire to give back to their community.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit www.isupportcommunity.org/kids-crew or email me at marion@isupportcommunity.org.

Marion Ruthig, Mom of 3, Founder & Executive Director of I Support Community

1  http://national.deseretnews.com/article/2235/Face-time-vs-screen-time-The-technological-impact-on-communication.html#XGUyzj2LftlL5hs8.99