Cellphone Etiquette

For over forty years, I have taught technology and tried to keep up with the latest and greatest. I was one of the first to have a computer and a cellphone. These have been wonderful steps forward in making the world an easier and better place to live.

However, there must be balance in all things. And right now, that balance has been lost.¬†Technology, with its wonderful gift for pulling people together, is now pulling them apart. Young and old, people are glued to their cellphones, their computers, their tablets. When they receive a text or email, it takes precedence over the conversation with a real human being with whom they are currently communicating. Young people are addicted to video games and go without food, sleep, or bathing so they can engage in “just this one more battle.”

Many people are so tied to their smart phones that they are bewildered and unable to function if it gets lost, breaks, or is stolen. Indeed, there is enough information on them that having it land in the wrong hands could be devastating financially as well as socially. The information including passwords, account numbers, credit cards, etc. are often not backed up in a place easily accessible, particularly if the owner is traveling.

Most people realize how funny it is to see two people eating at a dinner together, with their eyes glued to their cellphones. Most understand the tragedies of lives lost as young people step out in traffic in front of a car or bus, or are in accidents because of texting. But few people are willing to do anything about it.

It is time to have Rules of Etiquette to get lives back in balance. I propose the following:

1)¬†At a friend’s: Leave your phone in the car or turn it totally off. If you are “expecting an important call,” then leave it on vibrate and only answer that one call. Advise your host as you walk in that you are waiting for that call and apologize for the inconvenience. Keep it short.

2) Stores: Only bring them in if you are shopping for someone else and have a direct question about their purchase.

3) Church: Vibrate only (best off) and go off by yourself if you must talk to someone. Keep your voice down.

4) Doctor’s Offices: Great to pass time in the waiting room, but turn them OFF when the doctor walks in.

5) Schools: Support the schools in the rules they have. The last thing you want to do is to say that your child is “special” and “needs” a cellphone. If you feel this is true, look up the term “helicopter parent” and back off.

6) Cars: Don’t try to use the screen in any way if you are driving. I know some people can “just tell it to call someone” without touching or looking at it. My experience has been very poor with this as I can’t get it to stop when it decides to call the wrong person! Best to either NOT call anyone or call them when you are completely stopped. I do believe if the person you are talking to is aware you are driving and your driving comes first, and you have both hands on the wheel, that talking to someone on the phone is no worse than talking to another passenger or listening to the radio. In fact, on long drives, it can help keep you more alert. There are laws about this, of course, and many hands free options.

7) Children: No, children under driving age certainly do not “need” smart phones. If you can afford one without breaking the bank, and you put controls on it, there’s nothing wrong with that. But most families with young children really should be spending their money on more worthwhile endeavors and teaching the children the words “No, because we can’t afford it.” Older children certainly should have one when they are old enough to drive. And they are wonderful to take away if and when they misbehave. Parents should make sure they know all passwords for their children. This is simple safety until the kids are 18. Then the parents should back off, unless they are paying the bill.

8) As with any phone, the only time you call someone before 9 am or after 9 pm is if you know for sure they will be awake and alert enough to answer the phone.

9) At the table: Don’t to friends during a meal. Just it away.