Good Friends Are Harder to Find: Q&A With Dr. Mary

Mary Rosen

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Today, Dr. Mary is addressing the reasons kids have more trouble finding friendship today than in the past.

Q: It seems like kids now have more trouble with social relationships, more so than when I was younger. What are some of the reasons for this?

A: It's not your imagination, things have changed since you and I were kids. A combination of societal shifts have influenced a decline in the access kids once had to friends and relationship building. Michele Borba, a seasoned educator and author of a number of parenting books, including one of my favorites, Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them, refers to this issue as a "friendship crisis."

Borba outlines ten reasons kids nowadays are having such a difficult time with friendships:

1. Kids are overscheduled and "hurried," leaving little time for friends or much else.

2. Schools' increased emphasis on academics in order to improve rankings (to obtain funding) has undermined things like recess and free-time, times where kids could learn and practice social skills.

3. The media's sensationalized coverage of child abductions have made parents, and ultimately children, overly fearful of people in general, especially strangers. In fact, the number of child abductions has not increased, and when children are abducted, it is usually by a family member, not a stranger.

4. With the increased access to and use of technology (computers, video games, big screen TVs, etc), children are more isolated and less motivated for friendships.

5. Real-life social interactions have been replaced with text messaging and email, in part because of #1.

6. The impact of television cannot be underestimated. Borba points out that many television characters who serve as role models for our kids tend to be self-centered and mean. Repeated exposure to these people qualities diminishes the true meaning of friendship.

7. We live in a mobile society. Children who experience multiple moves to new schools may give up trying to make friends if they think the friendships are temporary.

8. Because play today tends to be very structured, competitive, and organized by adults (think football/soccer/baseball), kids have fewer chances to engage in play that is purely fun, noncompetitive, and child directed. Lack of unstructured play decreases opportunities to practice problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.

9. Kids today tend to be very focused on themselves, while showing little regard for others.

10. Because kids have fewer chances for socialization, basic manners and courteous discourse are lacking, leaving children ill equipped to develop quality relationships.

In a way, this means that less is more when it comes to enabling the social lives of kids.

Dr. Mary Rosen is here each week to provide answers to your most pressing school issues. She's a school psychologist, licensed counselor, graduate school instructor, and parent.

Got a question about school learning and behaviors for Dr. Mary? Leave it in the comments below or email us, and Dr. Mary may answer your questions in a future post.

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