Compassion Deficit Disorder – Its Causes and What We Can Do About It

Diane E. Levin, professor of early childhood education at Wheelock College in Boston, has coined a new term called “Compassion Deficit Disorder” to describe children who act without empathy or regard for others.  She uses descriptions from teachers to detail the changes in children’s actions in the classroom and school setting by recounting tales of young students bullying, teasing and having trouble participating in group activities or sharing materials. Levin attributes this “social behavior disturbance” to the influx of technology and media in children’s lives.

As children are exposed to more and more technology at an increasingly younger age they are exposed to television, games and media that promote anti-social or stereo-typed behaviors that shape the way kids think and behave, she says. Additionally, when children do play rather than watch a screen, they play with toys that are reflective of what they see on screens, so their play is often times relegated to a narrow re-enactment of what they have seen rather than using their imaginations to play creatively.  Levin also states that parents who are planning more structured and organized events for their children in an effort to enhance their abilities at a younger age are actually doing their children a disservice in taking unstructured, free play time away from their children.

So what to do about the overwhelming invasion of technology and structured time on a young child’s life? The author makes a couple of suggestions:

  1. Delay a child’s exposure to “high-tech, media and commercial cultures” for as long as possible.
  2. Have conversations with children about what they are thinking and how to build relationships with others.
  3. Meet other adults who will support your efforts to encourage positive social development and healthy relationships among children.

Tell us what you think:

  • Do you see an increase in the lack of empathy amongst students as compared to previous years?
  • If so, how is this manifesting itself?
  • Are there positive benefits of technology that you see in your classroom or at home?
  • What suggestions would you add to the author’s to improve our children’s social culture?

Read Diane E. Levin’s article here.

Authored by Jordan Khadam-Hir, Rice University School Literacy and Culture
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