Why Won’t Our Kids Talk to Us?
By Tobi Schwartz-Cassell
I don’t know about you, but even if my teenaged daughter and I haven’t had a screaming match that day, she’d still rather text me than call me. Is this something you’ve experienced?
As a former magazine owner and current blogger, I get a ton of email press releases every day. And rarely does any one in particular catch my eye, but this one did: “Why won’t Millennials Call Me?” (Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers.)
I started to notice this phenomenon in 2009-ish, while my son was in college. When he’d be home for a visit and his phone would signal, 50% of the time it was a phone call and 50% of the time it was a text. (At that point, I didn’t even want to learn how to text. In those pre-smartphone days, I’d have to punch one key several times before my chosen character would pop up.)
At about the same time, my daughter was entering high school. I noticed that, more and more, she wasn’t talking on her phone. She was texting…then laughing…then texting…then laughing… It was her version of a phone chat with a friend.
One evening, she asked for Chinese food for dinner. I said, “Sure. Here’s the number. Call in the order.” She froze.
That scenario repeated itself over and over again. She’d beg me to make calls for her, and if I wouldn’t, she’d go without. Even if that meant forgoing her favorite miso soup.
I started to see that all of her friends were the same way. They would actually avoid talking to people—even each other!
And then came that email, “Why won’t Millennials Call Me?”
Written by marketing strategist and analyst, Chuck McLeester, he told of his discovery of the same phenomenon:
Maybe it all started with AOL Instant Messenger when they were teens. They created acronyms like PIR (parent in room)…and other secret shortcuts to secure their privacy. This new technology changed the way they communicated, disrupting the late 1950s teen telephone culture celebrated in the famous “Bye Bye Birdie” number, “Telephone Hour,” that spread the word about Hugo and Kim getting pinned. And of course, cultural norms have changed since the “Telephone Hour,” with participants asking, “Did he pin the pin on? Or was he too shy?”
McLeester does a lot of research for the food industry. Working with a team of college students recently on how to increase the use of the Domino’s Pizza mobile app, he explains:
(When) I posed the question: “Why would I want to go through several phone screens to order a pizza when I can just call and say, ‘Make me a large pepperoni for pick up’?”
The team members replied, “So you don’t have to talk to anyone.” They went on to relate stories of late night pizza orders where friends argued over who was going to make the phone call.
Okay. So it’s not just me.
McLeester concludes that there are a number of reasons why millennials would rather type than talk, but he (nor I) truly buy any of them:
1. When ordering food, texting assures that the order is correct. But as McLeester says, “…in my decades of ordering food over the phone, I can count the incorrect orders I’ve gotten on one hand.”
2. “…Millennials want to craft their messages carefully rather than have to engage in extemporaneous speech. Yet many of the voice phone-phobes I know are quite adept at casual conversation.”
3. To texters, punctuation counts. To that I say–yeah, right. If they don’t care about punctuation on their history paper, why would they be concerned about it in a text?
So it’s still a mystery to me, and apparently to Chuck McLeester, too.
How about you? Willing to venture a guess? If so, please comment below!
June 22, 2015 @ 12:10 pm
What a great topic. I have a 21 year old son who from the time he was 5 or 6, didn’t like speaking on the phone, to anyone, and his voice reflected that fact. Drove me crazy. I’m a former retailer and now radio host who talks with a lot of folks so, I realize how important it is to hear expressions. He’s now in his third year of college and works delivering ice to businesses. He is just now becoming aware of the need to hear the voice rather than simply reading a message. I’m hoping it’s a maturity thing and these humans begin living in the real world. I think that’s the fear, the real world and responsibility. I remember the days when homes had one phone and when I’d call to speak to a girl, I would also speak to her Mom, Dad or whoever. Now, boys or girls never have to recognize or speak to a parent. Not good. Thank you!
June 22, 2015 @ 12:19 pm
Interesting take, Rich. And it’s so good to hear that I’m not alone. 🙂
June 22, 2015 @ 11:03 am
The article is spot on, I have 3 daughters ages 17-22 and they are all this way. I remember when I was that age my mother would make me call businesses to make appointments, obtain car insurance, etc. I disliked it but looking back I am glad she did this. It was a valuable life lesson. Unfortunately, This is not just happening with our youth, but society in general. We are all tethered to our electronic devises and losing human contact. Just look around the next time you are in public. Sad.
June 22, 2015 @ 1:47 pm
All true, Kathy. And your mom did a great thing by having you make those calls for yourself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
June 14, 2015 @ 7:09 am
My son is 16 and absolutely refuses to call the girl he is dating. They text on and off all day, and he complains they don’t get to see each other often due to busy schedules. I said well you could talk on the phone. You would have thought I told him to marry her. “Mom you don’t just call someone.” How do you get to know each other? He could not answer. I am both scared and a little sad on the effect this will have on their relationships now, and in the future.
June 14, 2015 @ 10:43 am
Geri, thank you so much for sharing this. I couldn’t agree with you more. It is both scary and sad, and it really makes you wonder about the future. Thank you again.