The Kids Aren't Totally Alright

In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to you, dear readers, for insight.

I'm starting to worry about my daughter's dating life (far off as it may be). I think she's in for a world of ... awkwardness.

Or maybe annoyance. Hostility? Perhaps. But definitely awkwardness.

When I was dating, cell phones were the size of bricks and the only text on them was the word Motorola stamped on the back. But now you look around at basically any social situation, and someone is on a cell phone, either chatting or tapping away at the worlds contained within.

My wife and I were out to dinner the other week, and I noticed a table filled with what must have been prom dates — the girls in gowns and the boys in tuxedos. Every. single. one of them. was texting away, their eyes cast downward or their hands up with a talk blocker between themselves and their dates. I fear this is heading in the direction of a you-kids-get-off-my-lawn, old-man-type rant, but I couldn't help but gape, curious how long the scenario could play out. Maybe they were just checking to see if anyone had arrived at the prom? Maybe there was a family emergency ... in all four families? Through course after course and on to dessert, the table appeared to remain noiseless, except maybe for the clicking of phones.

A week or so later, we took our daughter to a different restaurant and spotted another family across the room. The man and woman were about our age, and they were with what appeared to be a 5-year-old girl. Hello, friends! But the kid was hooked into her own iPhone, watching a movie at the table while her parents chatted every now and then between checking their own cell phones. On the way out, the kid still had her cell phone in front of her.

What. the. hell.

These are just two examples of the countless episodes of youths with cell phones, and it's beginning to piss me off.

This is an issue that applies to both genders, not just the girls, but I'm struggling with the idea of raising kids in this digital age and making sure they're checked into the real world — the people next to them or across from them — instead of the little screens at their fingertips. Seeing these examples and countless others (it can't be good when you're a baby and your mom or dad or nanny is constantly putting up a cell phone between you), I'm beginning to worry what it's going to be like in another decade, when cell phones, somehow, become even better. People sometimes wonder how these kids might perform in a job interview. I think that's the least of our worries. Will kids growing up in this environment be able to form connections with the people next to them? Will they be able to hold a conversation for five minutes without checking their cell phones?

I'm no Luddite and I check my cell phone as much as the next person, but I try to be aware that things like dinner or talks with my wife and daughter and friends are sacrosanct — moments to connect with the people literally near me, not the 500 "friends" in the ether. (You kids!) But I get the feeling this is a losing battle, that, in many ways, it's already too late. Maybe this is a little hyperbolic, but I actually do worry about what dates might be like for my daughter, whether her date — or, gasp, she — will be on a phone the whole time. Or whatever the hell contraption is around in 10 years. (Right now, I'd tell her to just walk out — she doesn't deserve that crap ass kind of attention.)

It's surprising, I know — downright miraculous, really — but I've been out of the dating scene for a long, long time, but I'm curious to know what it's like for youngsters nowadays, high schoolers and college kids and into early adults. Is it acceptable to text away or even talk to someone else during the date? From the looks of things, it's the new social norm. And I wonder what it's going to be like in the years to come and what that's going to do, socially, to new generations. Are we ... screwed?

Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out! Mark it: This is the point in his life when he turned into Andy Rooney.