These days, cell phones are everywhere. Most kids over the age of 10 or 12 have a phone and nearly every adult, for better or for worse, is tethered to the small device.
We tell ourselves they are necessary for emergencies (and they are!) and make life a heck of a lot more convenient (and they do!), but this does not mean we should abuse cell phones.
Much has been written about the right and wrong ways to use a cell phone in public. Most involve common courtesy and many you’ve heard before, but a refresher course is never a bad thing.
Make sure your teens understand that cell phones are not extensions of their right hands. Using them impacts others and it’s only decent to think about their surroundings when they chat. Make sure you and your kids know to:
- Screen calls when you are in a meeting or with friends. Unless the call can’t be avoided (i.e., it’s crucial you talk to the caller), turn off the vibrator or ringer and let the call go to voicemail.
- Apologize to those nearby when you must make a call and then walk away from them. Some say a 12-foot distance is appropriate. Keep the call brief. Teens will argue that when they are with their friends, it’s acceptable to take calls. This may be so, but the kids should be aware of who they are with when the call comes in. If they are with adults, in a club meeting, on public transportation, or with folks they don’t know well, they should follow protocol.
- Put the phone on vibrate when you are in a public place such as a restaurant, train, bus, library, doctor’s waiting room, or airport departure lounge. Check the call when you sense the vibration and if you must answer, leave the venue, if possible, and speak in soft tones. Keep the call brief and never get too personal in public places. No one wants to hear about your private life.
- Turn the phone off when you are in a place of worship, at the theater or a concert, at the movies or in a museum or gallery. If you must leave it on, put it on vibrate and plan to leave the area when and if it connects. Speak in low tones, even if you are in a lobby. If you can go outside, do so.
- Never send text message in the movies or theaters. Teenagers in particular think this a silent way to communicate during a film, but the cell phone light annoys nearby audience members and it’s nothing but rude.
Cell phones are a fact of life. For many teens, twenty- and thirty somethings, they are their only phones. This means conducting telephone business in public will only become more and more commonplace. If we all think of others -- and modulate our voices and our ring tones -- the reality will be tolerable.