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Oregon Family Magazine

Minding Mobile Manners

08/02/2011 ● By Anonymous
Kids ages 8 to 12 are spending as much as two to three hours each day on mobile devices such as laptops, netbooks, tablets or smartphones, according to a recent survey by Intel. That translates into a significant amount of time that parents can use to take advantage of teachable moments to reinforce good etiquette and safety.

Practicing good manners is not a new concept to kids, but when it comes to using mobile devices, what makes for good manners is not always so clear. After all, the parent who doesn’t allow his children to have cell phones at the dinner table but himself checks email throughout the meal on his smartphone is sending a mixed message.

The same Intel “Mobile Etiquette” survey showed that 59 percent of children have witnessed their parents commit common mobile infractions, including use of a mobile device on the road, at dinner and during a movie or concert.

Children look to their parents as examples in all things, and technology is no exception. Parents who hop off the phone when checking out at the grocery store and refrain from sending emails during a child’s soccer game can effectively demonstrate the appropriate times and places for mobile interaction.

Establishing guidelines and setting expectations that all members of the household adhere to can go a long way toward promoting good mobile manners. Here are some tips from author and etiquette expert Anna Post of The Emily Post Institute:

— Determine house rules. As a family, discuss ground rules for how you’ll each use — or not use — mobile devices.

— Set boundaries for mobile usage in the car, at restaurants and during special events, such as family movie night. Parents, be willing to limit your behavior, too, such as, “Mom, no texting during my soccer games,” or, “Dad, no calls during family movie night.”

— Create a policy that prohibits sharing words or images that would embarrass another person or get them into trouble.

— Respect requests to silence mobile devices in public places, such as the movie theater or doctor’s office.

— Reinforce school policies regarding use of mobile devices during school hours and at school-sanctioned activities.

Safety Savvy

Modeling good behavior and clearly defining rules are also important when it comes to mobile devices and safety. When good mobile manners are not practiced, technology can be used by individuals with unsavory intentions to threaten the privacy and safety of the entire family.

There are several steps parents can take to protect the entire family’s physical safety and privacy:

— Use technology to engage with each other. Visit websites together to learn what your kids are looking at online and why.

— Place the family computer in an open, central location so children aren’t isolated while using technology.

— Set age-appropriate restrictions on mobile Internet usage, whether through your mobile carrier, parental control settings or guidelines that you establish and monitor.

— Strictly adhere to the laws in your state regarding phone use while driving, and never email or text behind the wheel.

The surge in mobile device usage among all ages has created a new level of connectivity. A 2011 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project stated that 85 percent of U.S. adults own a cell phone, 52 percent own a laptop computer, 4 percent own a tablet, and only 9 percent do not own any of these or other devices covered in the study.

However, rules around using this technology are still being determined. Said Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow and head of interaction and experience research, Intel Labs: “Mobile technology is still relatively novel. After all, it was just 8 years ago that Intel integrated WiFi into the computer with its Intel® Centrino® processor technology, thus enabling the unwired laptop. Smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices are really still in their infancy, so it’s no surprise that people still struggle with how to best integrate these devices into their lives.”

Following these tips allows parents and kids to stay connected and enjoy the positive benefits of technology, while teaching good manners and protecting the entire family. Learn more at

Mobile Manners Do’s and Don’ts

Set a good example and teach your kids and teens to be mobile manners superstars with these simple tips:

Be present.

Give the people you are with your full attention. We can give a better impression with simple eye contact, and let’s be honest, that email, text message or tweet can wait a few minutes.

Small moments matter.

If your actions will impact those around you at the restaurant or the store, reconsider replying to that email while checking out until you’re in your parked car.

Practice what you preach.

If it bothers you when your kids use a mobile device in the car, be sure to consider that the next time you’re in the car and want to send a message or play Angry Birds to pass the time.

Manners matter, especially when using any type of mobile device around other people.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images