We have all experienced the aggravating moment of a cell phone ringing in a movie theater, and someone actually answering it. Or sitting with a dinner companion who is pretending to fix her napkin on her lap, but is really checking email under the table. People talk on their phones in public bathrooms, check sports scores in meetings and stop mid-conversation to text. In more and more instances, common courtesy is taking a backseat to the vibrations in our pockets, flashing lights in our purses and dings within five feet of earshot. We are beholden to our technology, and it is dictating a real need for all of us to be mindful of our manners. Our mobile manners, that is.
None of us are immune to the wiles of technology with its flashy colors and enticing interactivity. But the allure of technology can be even harder to resist for the next generation of device-toting denizens, known aptly as the "iGeneration." Kids growing up now are the first ones to learn ABCs through hand-held touchscreens, and know what an app is at the tender age of 2. And these toddlers are getting tech-savvier by the day. Common Sense Media found that 38 percent of children under 2 have used a mobile device for media, and 75 percent of kids under the age of 8 have access to a smart mobile device in the home.
Traditional manners with their "pleases" and "thank yous" are taught at an early age, but with the ubiquity of gadgets among families, mobile manners may be just as important. The words we speak, the beliefs we instill and the behaviors we model are all being absorbed by our kids. They are watching our every move, whether we are holding the door open for someone or checking our phones while we are driving.
We can attempt to shield them from technology as much as possible, the reality is that they are growing up in an always-on world. With technophiles surrounding them, the iGeneration is learning that it's easier to text than to talk and that people on the other end of the phone are more important than the people standing in front of them. It doesn't have to be that way. Being a good model of behavior and using your technology responsibly can go a long way in establishing your kids' healthy relationship with it.
Maybe it's naïve to think that kids who learn proper tech etiquette from the onset won't become cyberbullies or won't send sext messages, but it's worth a shot in trying. Educating youngsters on how powerful technology is when used properly -- and improperly -- may set a better foundation as they progress into the tween/teen years when technology can become more foe than friend.
Mobile manners are passed down and although they should be dictated by common sense, daily instances of egregious tech etiquette seem to indicate otherwise. Here are a few suggestions on how to set the right example:
- Don't allow gadgets at the table. At any meal.
- Put your kids before your gadgets and really listen when they are speaking instead of just nodding and saying "uh huh" while looking down at your phone.
- The next time you want to use a gadget to distract them, act as if you don't have it and see what other tactic you can come up with.
- Relax those dilated pupils and make eye contact with your kids.
- Keep your phone out of clear sight when driving. Sing along to the kids' music with them instead.
- Actually watch the DreamWorks movie they have been begging you to take them to, instead of using it as an opportunity to respond to email.
- When someone around you is demonstrating poor mobile manners, subtly point it out to your kids on what not to do.
- Reinforce the age-old "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." This applies to all situations, offline and online.
- Ignore calls when in public places like restaurants or libraries, even in loud, crazy indoor play spaces where you'd love a break for a few minutes.
- Instead of emailing grandma and grandpa, call them.
- Show them that you're not reliant on your phone 24/7. Have one gadget-free day every week.
- Teach them that what goes online stays online. Show them a picture of your awful permed hair from the 80s on Facebook to drive the point home.
Kids these days have a whole new set of digital guidelines they need to learn and follow; ones that were never even a factor in our childhoods. But the one constant between all the generations, digital or not, is that manners always matter.
What do you do to ensure that you're passing down good mobile manners to your kids?
Follow Jeana Lee Tahnk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JeanaTahnk