Daddy and mommy – look me in the eye

Eye contact – An essential interpersonal communication skill.

Before the smartphone revolution, people looked into each other’s eyes and faces, much more frequently…

I have recently been watching re-runs of ‘Friends’. The amazing, American 90’s comedy show, featuring a group of 6 close friends, who spend a lot of their spare time together. Just talking, communicating, with nothing to disturb them, other than the ordering of coffee and cake, at their favorite New-York, coffee place.

Watching the show, I could’nt help but notice how the world has changed in only 20 years. How great it is to see a group of peopl happily conversing with no smartphone coming between them.

It made me think – how much the smartphone has invaded our social field, influencing our interpersonal communication behaviors.

It also made me think about the influence of screens on the development of the eye contact skill of babies, infants and children.

The eye contact skill develops out of millions of little eye contact interactions between the baby and his/her’s care givers.

While feeding – whether it be breast feeding, or bottle feeding, or while playing together or walking about in the stroller. All these times offer endless opportunities for social interaction and special ‘two-ness’ moments.

But, alas, ‘the times, they are a changing…’(Bob Dylan).

Many such interactions are currently  interrupted by a technological ‘go between’ – the screen. And so, without our noticing, babies and infants get less and less undivided attention and undivided eye-contact time. This has a growing influence on the later development of social and interpersonal skills.

So, what can be done? Back to basics:

 My recommendation:

  • While feeding – no screens please – look each other in the eye – smile, connect, sing softly, interact.
  • While pushing the stroller with your baby in front of you – no screens please – look each other in the eye – smile, make joint attention – enjoy the environment together – notice the cars passing by, a dog, a cat, a flower, the next door neighbor.

All these interactions form the building blocks of your child’s social, interpersonal skills.

These are special developmental times, and they pass all too quickly. So, take the time…

Have a great week,

Irra Harari Friedman

Senior Educational Psychologist