Is It Just Me, Or Do Kids Not Know How To Introduce Themselves Anymore?

We might have lost the art of the introduction.

Young girl on the phone
Photo: George Marks/Getty

Kids these days, bless them, they don't even know how to introduce themselves. We have no one to blame but our cell phones. Oh, you didn't think I was going there? Well, buckle up because I have a definite theory on the repercussions of straight peer-to-peer conversations that take the parental figures out of the equation.

Raise your hand if you remember the exact script your parents taught you to recite when calling a friend's house? Mine went something like, "Hi, Mr./Mrs. [name]. This is [name] from [insert how we are acquainted]. Can I please speak to [child's name]?" There was a certain amount of gumption that was required to make such calls, and it necessitated a weighing of important factors including whether the purpose of the call was great enough to warrant a potentially tedious exchange with a parent and if the hour was appropriate for making such a call. The latter required additional schooling from parents on the proper time to call—dinnertime or any hour after 7:30 p.m. was strictly off limits.

Nowadays, kids are able to go straight to the source. If they want to call Sally from homeroom, all that's needed is Sal's cell number. No introductions. No awkward conversations with parents. This little fact has changed not only the world of phone etiquette, but also, I've found, how comfortable children are in introducing themselves in person—that is, if they do it at all. Whether we're talking introductions at the threshold when a neighbor child is asking Johnny's mom if he can come play, to polite peer-to-peer introductions at church, the park, etc.; so many children these days have lost the art of the introduction.

Before I make things sound too hopeless, I'm well aware that there are children for whom this golden rule of etiquette is not lost. I've seen it in action, and when it happens it's like spotting a unicorn. That being said, when it comes to my own children, I can certainly do more to bring this message home. This generation has the ability to scoot by without learning this life lesson thanks to technology, but when it comes to face-to-face interactions, skills in introductions will take them far.

While it's important for children to be able to introduce themselves to adults in person, introduce a friend, sibling, or acquaintance to another child, and even go so far as to introduce themselves over the phone should the situation arise, there's also another layer there. Not only is it beneficial for them to not avoid these situations, but it's worth encouraging them to instead seek them out. One refrain many of us heard growing up was, "It's a character-building experience." If I had a dollar for every "character-building" experience I found myself in, I would want for nothing. But it seems that these young tykes aren't getting their fair share—at least when it comes to matters of meeting. A disservice not only to them in the short run, but also years down the road.

Being schooled (and practiced) in the art of the introduction builds a confidence that only comes through years of jutting out a hand and making their presence known regardless of the age of the receiver, the location of the interaction, and whether they're in person or over the phone. Come to think of it, we might be better off now knowing that this lost art is falling out of the spotlight. Sometimes that can be just the impetus needed to bring back the most worthwhile of skills. Say it with me, "Hi, Mrs. Smith, this is Elizabeth Ann…"

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