Lack of Eye Contact with Young People

On a panel recently I was asked what major concern I had for the next generation.  I have great hope for our next generation, but a million things ran through my head. I settled on:

Lack of eye contact.

People in the audience and on panel were visibly taken aback.  Eye contact? That is your biggest concern? I know it seems like a silly issue, but I think lack of eye contact is a symptom of many larger issues I am worried about, but is a perfect example of the culmination of my worries.

1) Technology Overload

The Internet is an amazing thing, but it also trains us to believe we need to be in contact and have information about everything. It is the difference between just in case information and essential information. I believe being constantly bombarded with what your friend is eating for breakfast, fourteen blog posts on a recent trends and a 10 page wikipedia article is distracting us away from connection–eye contact.

2) Social Illiteracy

With all of the technology I think slowly, kids and teens are losing person to person social skills. Our younger generations are used to have conversations with screens or through phones, and therefore are not used to having to keep eye contact or the importance of it to show respect and connection.

3) Lack of Empathy

Emptathy is a new word to describe many of my fellow Gen Yers. Many teens do not even know what empathy means, let alone how to apply it. Eye contact is about reading people, getting a deeper understanding. If you do not have the desire to do this, then there is not point to eye contact.

4) Heightened Individuality

I love that the younger generations are creative and confident, this also brings a heightened individuality that can have a nasty side. When teens are only aware of themselves, they communicate with one idea in their minds: “How can I get what I want?” Eye contact during conversations is about a mutual understanding and respect that many young people do not value as highly as their individuality.

How Can We Improve Eye Contact?


Make sure that you take your eyes off your cell phone in the grocery line and always look your children in the eye while speaking with them. Many teens are learning from their parents that eye contact is not as important if you are busy or feel like looking somewhere else.


I have found that as soon as I mention the importance of eye contact to a child or teen they instantly become aware of it themselves. Usually they do not even realize they are not looking you in the eye.

-Sign of Respect

Explain that eye contact can be a great booster before your teenager or child goes to their first day of school, attends their first interview or meets someone they want to impress–you want to capitalize on something they already want since they rarely see the value in eye contact on it’s own.

-They Can Learn Something

I have boys who I have worked with on eye contact and the lesson never stuck, they were always looking down at their hands or past my shoulder while speaking to me. Yet, I had one breakthrough when he was talking to me about a girl who he was unsure if she liked him. I was able to talk to him about how eye contact is a great way to see this. Eye contact not only helps others, but also can be an asset to them, and this will make them more likely to apply it.

Do you have problems with eye contact? Have you noticed this in young people?

This is part of EmoSocial Intelligence series. If you would like to read more articles on how to read and build nonverbal communication skills in your family or with your child, please visit our EmoSocial Intelligence page for tips and updated research.

4 thoughts on “Lack of Eye Contact with Young People”

  1. As a teen I do agree with this article but I feel like some people dont use eye contact because of how they were raised. I cant look my mom in the eyes because she believes it is disrespectful when i do. But if its a stranger I am having a conversation with I look them in the eye, but tey look away. So I agree and Disagress

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