Why We Must Teach Social Skills in School

social skills, high school, social intelligence, communication, There are two sides to many high school students–the funny, spirited one on IM, and the awkward, silent one in person. One of my teen interns recently joked,

“I have all of these friends that are so awesome on Facebook chat, but when I see them in the hallways at school they don’t even know how to talk to me. Isn’t it weird that online you can talk about so many private things, but in person you can barely talk about the weather?”

Over the past few years of working with and speaking to teenagers I have seen a rapid decline in social skills. As we become more technologically savvy and spend more time online, we interact with each other less and less offline, in real life. When I work with teens on issues like bullying, miscommunications in the home, social drama and low self-esteem we always end up coming back to a lack of social skills.

For example, a girl gets in a huge fight with her friend. She is too uncomfortable to approach her friend about it in person, so instead she sends her a text. The text gets misinterpreted and the friend sends a nasty text back. Before the girls know it, there is a huge texting war of mean and attacking comments. This not only could have been avoided if it had been dealt with in person, but also both girls were to afraid to resolve the fight once it got started in person because they lacked the social skills to deal with the emotional issue.

I believe that lack of social skills is one of the major causes of the increase in bullying incidents. We MUST begin to teach social skills in school. We have sex education, why not relationships 101, we have shop class, why not an explanation of social maps, we have home economics, why not a class on social skill building? Since relationships 101 classes do not exist, my teens and I have created our own and have begun to teach it in schools. We call this social literacy.

What Social Skills Should We Teach?

Social literacy is a person’s ability to interact, maintain and build relationships with others. This has also been called social intelligence or emotional literacy because social literacy involves knowing and being able to express one’s own emotions successfully.

Teaching social literacy involves teaching young people communication and social skills, as well as showing them how to effectively and purposefully mediate their interactions with family members, friends and colleagues in the school or business environment. Some of examples of social literacy issues might include lack of eye contact, understanding angry feelings versus fear or being able to deal successfully with confrontation.

The Social Skills Movement

I believe the only way we can combat bullying and equip our children how to take ownership of their relationships and communication is to teach them social literacy. At Radical Parenting we have decided to make this one of our priorities. There are a number of ways you can help:

  • If you are a parent or teacher, begin to teach your students about social literacy. Create impromptu lessons and practice with them. We have helpful guides as well.
  • If you are a parent or teacher, talk to your school about having a social skills class. We work with schools all the time to help implement a curriculum for students on relationships 101 and social skills. Let us know how we can help.
  • If you are a blogger, writer or have lots of parent friends, start talking about the need for social skills. We try to write about the importance of relationships 101 on our blog to raise awareness. The more people who know about this issue and how it is affecting our young adults, the closer we get to change. Here are some other interesting parts of this issue.

We are going to be posting more helpful information on this topic and help teaching young adults how to have healthy communication. Please help our cause!


Photo: Ilona from Flikr

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6 Responses to “Why We Must Teach Social Skills in School”

  1. New Moon Girls
    June 27, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Although many would like the believe that social networking is just a passing craze, it’s probably true it’s about time it makes it’s way into the classroom. If young students are including on their resumes how handy they are with Twitter and Facebook, it’s safe to say that the majority of young North Americans will soon be involved in a whole new realm of social interaction in the future. Therefore, encouraging teachers to bring in some kind of program that teaches kids all the things they forget about social media, such as privacy issues and technology etiquette, would be a great idea. It is amazing how much trouble a misinterpreted text message can cause, especially between young girls!

  2. Elena
    July 10, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Being responsible in social media should be teached in school. Socializing on the web could bring many benefits if it is according to policies.

  3. Ruth
    July 20, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    People used to automatically learn how to interact in person by doing so.  While technology has created many opportunities to communicate with others, it has also created problems in communicating in person.  Young people learn how to communicate by doing, which is shown by how well they can communicate through text or Facebook.  Parents and others can encourage young people to interact in person rather than through technology only.


  1. 7/1/11: Articles for Parents this Week | Radical Parenting - July 1, 2011

    […] Why We Must Teach Social Skills in School This article is a call to all of us to begin to think about how social illiteracy is effecting the next generation and how we can counteract the negative effects and build the positive ones. […]

  2. Fascinating New Cyberbullying Research | Radical Parenting - October 18, 2011

    […] Why We Must Teach Social Skills in School  This article is a call to all of us to begin to think about how social illiteracy is effecting the next generation and how we can counteract the negative effects and build the positive ones. If you liked this article check out our series on the Science of Social Interaction and the Science of Families. Citations: Steffgen, G., König, A, et al. (2011). Are cyberbullies less empathic? Adolescents’ cyberbullying behavior and empathic responsiveness. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Available online May 9. […]

  3. How’s Your Child’s ‘Relationship’ Brain? | Radical Parenting - November 21, 2011

    […] the emotions, facial expressions, body language of others around them? A huge part of people and relationships intelligence is being able to tune into others. We have to teach social literacy—their ability to read […]

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