Communication means making eye contact

The Yomiuri Shimbun

“You can convey what you feel if you look each other in the eye when you talk.”

This is the slogan used for posters and events for this year’s Child Welfare Week, which starts today with Children’s Day. The slogan was created by an 8-year-old boy in Okinawa Prefecture.

The boy said his mother scolds him, often saying, “Look me in the eye” and “You won’t understand how people you’re talking to feel if you don’t look them in the eye.” He said from this experience, he came to think that: “People can understand the feelings of others easily if everybody makes eye contact when they talk. They also can be generous to others.”

By scolding children, mothers teach them important things. Indeed, this boy properly understands his mother’s feelings. It is surely a good mother and child relationship.

Looking each other in the eye when we speak is not as easy as it sounds. There are so many incidents that make us keenly aware of this in the Internet age.

What is worrying, among other things, is that “cyber-bullying” has become so rampant among children.

Faceless attacks

On unofficial school Web sites, words intended to disparage classmates are posted to be read by an unspecified number of people. Those messages are anonymous.

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry has confirmed that there are about 38,000 unofficial school Web sites, but a private organization estimated the number at more than 300,000.

Anonymous bullying is more insidious and sneakier than incidents in which the bully’s identity is clear. Even though such bullying often starts just for fun, it quickly escalates in its maliciousness and spreads in an anonymous world.

In a recent case, two teenage boys who became acquainted on an online profile site, built up a hatred of each other via online messages they exchanged. Eventually, they met for the first time and one of the boys attacked the other with a metal baseball bat, inflicting serious injuries.

Anonymity breeds contempt

As long as people face each other, they should at least be aware of how much they are harming other people. In a human relationship without eye contact, hatred can easily go beyond a bearable limit and lead to extreme violence.

However, the Internet and cell phone text messages cannot not bear all the blame. What is important is how we use them. E-mail can be a good tool even between a parent and child because it could enable them to convey their emotions without feeling embarrassed, as they might when actually facing each other.

However, this can only be true if they maintain mutual trust.

In a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey about family ties, just 9 percent of respondents said family bonds “have been growing stronger.” It also found that 84 percent agreed that “family members have less time to spend with each other these days.” The results are worrisome.

First, let’s talk more with parents, children and other family members eye-to-eye. We hope people will affirm the importance of facing each other on Children’s Day.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May , 2008)

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