Who are these people that our kids are talking to on i-phone? We must wonder!

In Williamsburg, Virginia, a historical town known as the first colony, a couple entered the restaurant and took a table next to me. Two teenagers accompanied them. After ordering the food, the kids took out their i-phones and until it was time to leave, they did not look up! Imagine that! Their parents were right there talking to each other. But the kids were gone! Gone somewhere in the air!

I know I am growing old, but not too old to wonder! I wonder whether we can have the youth tell us honestly whom they talk to on the other side of that wave. I know they have friends, but what do they talk about? A buddy of mine told me that he encouraged his teenage sons to bring their buddies home to avoid being in the wrong places out there. Then, while visiting them I got out of the house to my car to pick something. I used the back door to get out of his house. Then walking around the garage I saw red flashes of light coming from inside the kids car. When I approached, they saw me and turned out the weed. “Hey uncle.” They said nervously. “Hey guys. What’s up?” I asked. “Just chilling man.” I said cool.

Would it have made a difference if I had confronted them screaming bloody murder and preached my moral code? Would that teach them smoking weed is not good for their brains? Maybe be I should have ratted them to their parents who thought they were outside listening to Christian music in the car. The fact is whether they are in the yard or at a parking lot; they had a mental orientation that guided them to their action. Whether that orientation is consistent with their parent’s moral code is not important what is important is that they have a code that guides their behavior.

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After graduating from the academy, my young man came home in a mow hawk! The thing was spiked by some chemicals and stood better that that of a jogoo! I figured there is a reason why he had decided to look like a bird. Therefore since I did not know all the reasons and logic behind what I perceived as ‘un-Christian’ I just mattered, “that is some hair buddy.” He replied, “Yap. Celebrating man! Just celebrating.” When my nephew arrived from Kenya to study in the United States, he had his pants sagging; he wore military boots, and a t-shirt that should have been worn by his grandfather! They grew out of it. Now they love classical music and Plato!

Trying to find a moral code in the bible that deals with my addiction to classic rock, or my friend’s love for his 50 inch TV, or his wife’s commitment to starbucks and the shoe outlet is hard. It is even harder to find a way to un-justify buggy pants, mow hawks, tattoos, and the cultural hag ups we find our selves with. But it cannot be that while seating at a table in a restaurant, the kids cannot put down their i-phones to have a conversation with their parents. I mean it does not have to be rock science and the discovery of gunpowder. It does not have to be an inquisition into their dating life. It has to be something. Even looking straight into their eyes? Really!

It cannot be that the family outing and restaurant experience has to be dominated by people you do not know. Each kid was talking to someone. It has to be there is something interesting that those others have which make these kids listen to them. I know they are not only texting, but also viewing stuff online. Yes these things are also persons. Even watching something on YouTube is conversation. Therefore, “I am not talking to any one mum, or I am not texting someone…just watching YouTube,” is still talking. The sad thing is they are talking to someone other than the parents.

This is the mode that many Kenyan parents in Kenya envy. The idea of their children owning i-phones to show the world that they have arrived. The principle of success manifested in gadgets. Not in a college degree? I am not arguing that we stop the young from wearing nice cloths, shoes and listening to hip-pop. Rather, I don’t know, maybe I am too old fashioned but those kids at the restaurant should not have been on the phones. The parents should have been benevolent dictators and demanded that they leave the phones in the car. They need to give the moment of family meal attention. Even if it is parents listening to their nonsense, it is better than they listening to some ghost!

But I do not blame the children. For when guests come into our homes and we leave the TV on while trying to have a conversation, or talking to the kids while watching soaps is not a great way to show an example. At a friend’s house in Kenya, the TV was off and we sat at the table with their medical school kid. She did not say much, but she was listening. The whole time I was there she did not have her i-phone. I thought, my, this maybe the reason she will be a great dentist! We need to turn off these gadgets, especially when we are talking to the young and houseguests! They may do the same.

Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD). HTBluff Associates @HTBluff

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