Eye Contact!

I’m astounded at all the things we have to teach our kids. I knew signing up that being a parent is hard work, but the pressure to not screw them up is stunning. So, Shane and I really have tried to raise kids who are hard working, kind, fun-loving and warm; and I think (so far) we’re doing a pretty good job. But since Maddy turned 13, I’ve really started watching the teenagers of the world because the upcoming years are going to be so different from the ones we’ve already had. And the one thing I’ve noticed is that the teenagers today (said in a raspy curmudgeonly voice) is lack of eye contact! These young ‘uns hardly look at each other! And that seems to have translated into young adults who can be blissfully unaware of the rest of the population.

Think about it, when kids play these days, they are usually plopped in front of a video game where they look not at each other, but the screen in front of them. I will allow that their on screen characters probably make eye contact before they blow them to kingdom come, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count.

Even walking up the street together, they’ll be chatting, but while they’re chatting will be looking down to their hands, texting madly. Or having a coffee at Starbucks – sure they’ll be at the same table, but they might as well be in different cities because although their coffees are side-by-side, their eyes are locked onto the laptops in front of them…crazy. Maybe that’s why shoes have become such an important (and expensive) thing – ‘cause that’s all your friends really see of you from one end of the day to the other.

This lack of eye contact phenomenon has led to kids who really don’t know how to be part of an audience, how to be aware of the crowds around them. Go to any movie and they’ll be talking away (and likely texting) – probably because they have a TV at home almost as big as the cinema screen, so perhaps think that they’re in their own basement. I dunno. We had a big group of first year college students at the club on Thursday; they had bought out the whole place for a fund raiser. And kudos to them! But when it came to show time, they truly didn’t know how to behave. They weren’t bad kids, just seemingly unequipped to shut up and watch a show, if for no other reason than to let everyone else enjoy it. Any time one of the comics would say something, they’d blurt out “Me too!” kind of noises. For example, you’d mention something about a cell phone and you’d hear murmurs of “I have a cell phone, too!” “So do I!”; exhausting and weird, indeed.

So, with this new found knowledge, I’m going to make sure my kids learn eye contact, and therefore, that there is a whole world around them. Because God knows when Maddy gets her first boyfriend, I don’t want to ask her if he’s cute and have her response to be “I don’t know”…“But he’s got awesome Nikes”.

In fact, I’m going to interrupt their game of “Call of Duty” right now and tell them so.

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