Are kids today ruder than other generations?
We often hear comments that today's youth have no manners. They show no respect for others or themselves. But are those fair comments? Do the youth of today differ than the youth of previous generations when it comes to the basics of manners and respect?
Leave it to Beaver was a popular television show that aired from 1957 to 1963. It featured the everyday life of the Cleavers. While it was fictional, in many respects it reflected the values of the time, when respect and good manners were taught and expected. Fast forward to 2011 and the television fare is very different. Take the popular reality show Jersey Shore, for example.
Leave it to Beaver and Jersey Shore are television shows intended to entertain, but they also show us life has changed. Manners and respect don't seem to matter as much. Please and thank you have been replaced with four letter words and bravado.
Lew Bayer, of the Winnipeg-based Civility Experts, says people interact differently these days. "We see people interacting. Kids, you know, they don't get up when an older person comes in the room. We push and shove and don't say excuse me. We don't pick up after ourselves. We interrupt. We'll say things in an e-mail that you would never consider saying to someone face to face."
Bayer started Civility Experts 14 years ago. The company offers everything from civility training to courtesy camps for kids. She says part of the problem stems from a change in the way we parent our children.
"Many parents are working three jobs between two people. We're busy, we're tired, and we're stressed. Teachers are over-taxed and what happens is something has to give and it often turns out that between the television functioning as the baby-sitter and not being able to keep up with technology and parents not quite knowing themselves what the rules are, it turns out that often children don't know how to behave properly," said Bayer.
Sharon Kuhn is a church pastor in Prince Albert. Kuhn was trained as a courtesy camp counselor by Civility Experts.
"I felt there was a real need for people to recognize that manners are important in their life," said Kuhn. ""It's never too early to start training and teaching your children good respect, good habits, good manners."
Devyn and Trystan Zachkowski took a one-week courtesy camp with Kuhn in 2007. The sisters from Meath Park were enrolled in the class by mom Michelle.
"Get it young. Start right. That's always been kind of what I thought. If you learn it young, it's going to carry forward with you," said Michelle.
Now 17 and 12, Devyn and Trysten see the importance of being polite and well mannered.
"I see that if you're not that polite, people don't take you seriously. And if you don't treat people like a certain way, they won't treat you that way either," said Devyn.
The Zachkowski children are no different than most kids their age. They are exposed to all kinds of images and behaviors through television, movies and music. Add to that today's technology; cell phones, texting, Facebook and Twitter. They are part of a generation interacting and communicating with one another unlike any generation before it.
"If they don't have any social skills or respect and understanding of what being considerate to others is and then they're playing and communicating and socializing with technology, where the rules are unclear as well, I don't think there is an opportunity for them to practice it," said Bayer.
Kuhn says youth may have issues with manners because they don't speak face-to-face any more.
"As much as it gives us more access to more people and more things, I find the children or youth of this generation especially, are probably the loneliest kids, because they actually have no idea how to have a one-on-one conversation with another person."
Albert Jame is a social media expert. In presentations to marketing students at the University of Saskatchewan, he explores the world of interactive technology.
"The new medium and the new world that we're living in allows us to be a little bit more open to who we want to be just because of the anonymity, the different ways you can have screen names and the way you can share information. It allows us to be ourselves. This may not be a great thing," said Jame.
Facebook has 500 million active users worldwide, sending out some four billion messages every day. So it's perhaps no surprise users seem to have little or no regard for what's appropriate.
"It's just becoming a lot cruder and we're just becoming less censored and more accepting of it. But whether it's going too far - I don't know. Maybe this is where we're supposed to be because this is maybe who we actually are," said Jame.
But as we become more accepting of incivility, we risk paying in other ways. Today's youth may well possess a skill set that fits the technology of the time. But what is the cost if you are deficient in the basics of manners and respect?
"The fact that we actually have to tell adults that you have to be kind and respectful to each other at work. You know, that you may not use a certain tone of voice, that you can't be confrontational or aggressive towards people. The fact that we have to tell grown-ups to be nice to each other would suggest that there is an impact," said Bayer.
In the business world, incivility also affects the bottom line. While it's difficult to put a dollar figure on it, experts believe the impact is real.
"Incivility affects productivity, it affects performance, and it affects customer service. It impacts retention in the workplace,' said Bayer. "There's a huge cost of incivility to business and it's tangible."
Bayer considers civility a choice. When we extend common courtesy, we improve the quality of the experience for those around us and for ourselves. She says society needs to understand civility is as important today as when the Cleavers were busy raising Wally and the Beaver.