‘Kids of today are great at iPod, iPad, iPhone but not at EYE contact”, a friend recently said to me. This really hit home because I started to notice a lot of our kids nowadays are so much more adept at all the technological skills than the people skills. I think we as parents need to make a strong effort to make sure our children get the right training on those people skills as well. We were at a dinner party recently with three other families and a total of eight kids. As usual the kids ran off to their side of the house and the adults were happy to chat with them out of the way. Then we realized that we don’t encourage them to come in and greet each adult and make polite conversation. Instead we let them just play with the kids and ignore the grown-ups. In doing this, we lose an opportunity to teach them how to socialize with other age groups. Part of this is about teaching them to respect the elders. There is more to that than just not saying or doing something bad in front of the adults. It is also rude to ignore and not make eye contact with them.
One reason for this change in kids is that life is very hectic for most families these days with both parents working and kids bogged down with homework and several activities. This leaves little time to work on social etiquette. Most parents do try to teach their children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and have some level of manners but many times they don’t notice the lack of eye contact either. It is often let go with the excuse of shyness or age. In older times, life ran at a slower pace and kids were raised in more of a community environment. This exposure and closeness to adults other than parents or teachers taught kids how to interact respectfully with that age group. Many rules of etiquette are now considered old-fashioned and of those times, but I don’t think all of them should be let go.
I believe the other big factor attributing to this change is that today’s children have so much interaction with technology. This type of interaction may keep their minds sharp in many ways but it doesn’t do anything for their social skills. They get no visual feedback and response no matter what their body language may be saying. Whereas that same body language may seem rude or dismissive to a person, the computer or gadget isn’t bothered. This becomes a form of conditioning since the kids often spend more of their time in front of a screen instead of a human. They get less experience realizing how their speech or body language is interpreted by others.
I know much of our socialization has moved on-line and probably will more-so over the next generation. However, I don’t think we should let our kids lose the skills you need for respectful and pleasant in-person interaction. We still appreciate it when we come across a stranger who is chivalrous or polite even though some of these courtesies are often considered outdated and optional. It makes us feel good and respected. Wouldn’t it be tragic if something like eye contact and respectful and attentive body language became an outdated etiquette as well?