I was sitting at a local restaurant this past Sunday and I can’t get out of my head what I saw. A mother and son having a late lunch –and exchanging less than 20 words during the entire meal. The boy was somewhere between 6 and 8 years old. He was looking down at a phone while his mother alternated between staring into space or looking at her iPhone. How sad! What a missed opportunity. In this age of technology, many children are missing out on developing important communication skills…like having a face-to-face conversation. Between texting, tweeting, Facebook, iPads, iPhones…etc. it seems as though typing is easier than talking.
When I brought this scenario up to co-workers who have children, they commented on how many times they have seen parents give their kids some form of electronic device during a meal out at a restaurant. Parents look to occupy their children and hopefully avoid potentially awkward situations. It’s easier to avoid having to give a child a lesson in manners, or social skills, or how to have a conversation with an adult. But how will they learn if we avoid these real-life scenarios all together?
I have taken my own children out to restaurants so I have first hand knowledge that those outings can be difficult and sometimes downright unpleasant. We were asked not to return to The Eatery at White Flint Mall when our son was around 18 months old after he and his buddy had been overly rambunctious. That certainly was mortifying and a low point for us. But there were many other times when we went to kid friendly restaurants and taught our children what was expected of them if they were going to be treated to China Village, Parkway Deli, or their favorite: the late, great Sir Walter Raleigh’s.
What struck me personally about the mother/son failure to speak also strikes me when I am driving home through the neighborhoods and I see nannies wheeling children in their carriages while they chat on their phones. Again, this distresses me. Why aren’t they talking to their charges and pointing out the squirrels or the leaves? I’ve talked about that scenario many times with nannies when they come into our office to interview. We talk about our expectations for their interactions whether they are walking down the street or playing in the park. Parents aren’t paying for them to be on their cell phones. That point is clear. When it’s the parent’s failure to make the most of these teachable moments, who’s making that point?