February 4, 2013

A New Year’s Resolution – Phone Etiquette For Our Children

Cori Cross, MD, FAAP

It seems that every year it becomes more common to see younger and younger children walking around with cell phones.  Seeing six and seven year olds with an iPhone is hardly a novelty nor is watching older tweens and teens totally ignoring the world around them while they text like it is an Olympic sport.

One blogger mom took a novel approach when she gave her 13 year-old son an iPhone this Christmas.  The present came with a set of rules and conditions. She laid out what was expected of him and even more importantly she gave him guidelines for proper etiquette.

But what is proper etiquette? For my generation, having good manners was something that parents were expected to instill in their children and everyone knew what good manners were.  We were taught to look someone in the eye when speaking, to give someone your full attention, to not interrupt, to keep quiet if you don’t have something nice to say, and not to gossip or spread rumors.  We were also taught to be modest, not to brag, to respect others privacy, and to be on even better behavior when we were out to dinner or in a public place. 

It seems that for many parents the addition of cellphones into the family paradigm has allowed all semblance of good manners to vanish.  It may be that today there is no universally accepted standard of proper etiquette. This causes many parents not to realize how rude certain behavior is until their children have adopted it. Even worse, when trying to extinguish this behavior in their children, parents often become uncomfortably aware that they are in fact modeling that same behavior.

It may be that as a society we are in desperate need of an Emily Post. Someone to clearly state a set of rules that parents can enforce with their children so that as families and as a society we don't become experts at interacting in a virtual world but inept when it comes to knowing how to behave in the actual world.  For me as a mother, that list would look something like this:

  • ·      Don't answer your phone while in the middle of a conversation with an actual person. You can call the person back. You don’t need to be accessible at every second. If it is an emergency, then say so to the person to whom you are speaking, “Excuse me. I hate to be rude but my mom is calling and I really should answer it.”
  • ·      Look at a person when talking to them.  Don’t carry on a conversation while you continue to text or stare at your phone.
  • ·      Leave your phone in your pocket or bag when out to eat. Don’t place it on the table as if someone more important than the person in front of you may call at any instant.
  • ·      Don’t even think about bringing your phone to the dinner table when you’re at home.
  • ·      Turn the ringer off when you enter a restaurant or other quiet public place. This is why the phone has a vibrate feature.
  • ·      If you need to take a phone call while out to eat, step outside. This is more polite and will remind you that you are there with someone else who is waiting for you.
  • ·      Don’t forward along hurtful or gossipy information or photos.
  • ·      Think before you speak, text, post or forward anything.
  • ·      Don’t post every mediocre accomplishment or thought you have during the day. 
  • ·      Lastly, a word of advice, spend your time actually doing things, don’t waste it documenting your life for all to see as if you are some B-list reality star.