My middle schooler told me yesterday that he took a nap on the bus en route to his track meet.

I said, “A nap? Wasn’t it kind of noisy to take a nap?” I was remembering what my bus was like in middle school–with rowdy kids calling out to each other and jumping from seat to seat while the bus driver wasn’t looking.

But my son said, “No, actually, everyone was really quiet. They were all looking at their phones.”

Is it just me, or does that seem a little strange? Middle school boys quiet? On a bus? And without a guy with a uniform a gun standing guard? What sort of spell has been cast on our middle school boys?!

I suppose I should be grateful, to some degree. I mean, if it’s silent, I don’t have to worry about my son hearing dirty stories or bad language, right? It seems a little silly to say that my son is missing out, because his bus isn’t full of burping, yelling, tackling boys.

Yet the silent bus seems a bit eerie. And the power of those little screens is scaring me. I wonder what will happen to a generation of boys who never look anyone in the eye and don’t know how to talk to each other? What kind of men will grow out of boys who communicate only with their thumbs?

The men I know–the ones who never had a little screen as a kid–naturally struggle with communication and relationships. I sincerely doubt that their sons are going to have a leg up by getting no practice during the awkward years of adolescence. How are silent busloads of boys going to evolve into the kind of leaders that our families and communities are thirsting for?

I long for my sons to be exceptional leaders. I want them to become articulate men who know how to read people and competently argue their position. I want them to be strong, compassionate, selfless leaders who contribute to the world they live in. And I’m not naive enough to think this is going to happen without a lot of practice and interaction with real, live people.

The culture says that we are giving our boys and advantage by putting these little screens in their hands. But I wonder if the opposite might be true. What do you think?

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