Kids & Parenting

Teaching children cellphone etiquette

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texting and driving
Texting and driving is one of the most serious cellphone saftey hazards.
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Use cellphones safely and responsibly: tips for parents, kids and teenagers

Times have changed. While cell phones were considered to be fancy and expensive gadgets less than a decade ago, today young children and nearly every teenager seems to own a cellphone. Parents of teenagers are highly aware of lengthy, expensive cell phone conversations with friends, as well as frequent texting and e-mailing that have been made possible by smart phone technology.  

Although major advancements in cell phone technology have certainly enhanced the communication industry, it has become increasingly important for parents to teach children cellphone etiquette. Ironically, teaching cellphone etiquette is a subject that has only recently been broached by parents, educators, and other child safety organizations.  

Talking on a cellphone at inappropriate times or using poor judgment in handling cell phone communications, can lead to rude or offensive behavior ... and in some instances, even dangerous or life-threatening situations.  

By taking the time to teach children cellphone etiquette, parents can help to protect their kids, instill smartphone manners, good judgment, and responsibility.

Promote Responsibility, Safety and Sound Judgment By Teaching Cellphone Etiquette to Children:

1.   Teach children responsibility when it comes to owning a cell phone. Start by discussing the cellphone bill with your children. Show your children the bill so that they are aware of what a cellphone costs, and how many minutes they are entitled too. Help children manage a cap on their minutes, and track their minutes each month. This will actually help your children to make positive choices, and stay more structured about their cellphone use.

2.   Impress upon your child the fact that a cell phone is for their safety – not for extended gossip with friends.

3.   Teach your child that cellphones are not intended for use during school, in particular, classroom hours. Most schools have strict policies regarding use of electronics, including cellphones, during the school day or at school functions. Review these rules with your children. During these hours, phones should be safely locked in a school locker, or stored in a backpack, turned off or switched to the silent setting.

4.   Public places, such as movie theaters, restaurants, hospitals, schools and libraries are all places where a quiet atmosphere is important. When visiting these places, remind your child to switch their cellphone ringer to the “silent” or “vibrate” setting.

If public cellphone conversations simply cannot be avoided, teach children to lower their voices, and talk quietly. This is especially important in elevators, small indoor spaces and while waiting in line at a store. Teaching cellphone etiquette will minimize nasty looks and offended neighbors in public plates.

5.  Help your child record a friendly and appropriate voice mail greeting. Talk with your child about the type of message that they should leave on a friend's phone. Insist that your child respect the rules that have been set for his or her friends by their own parents regarding cellphone use. If a friend is not to receive calls after 10pm, for example, your child should not send text messages to subvert a parent's directive.

6.   Discourage your child from installing particularly loud or obnoxious ring tones on their phone, as these can prove disruptive, distracting, and offensive to people in public settings.  

7.   Enforce the fact that family and meal time are not proper times for texting or cellphone conversations with friends. However, take the time to explain your rules to your kids, so they have a clear understanding of your reasoning.

For example, if your teenager is still chatting away on her phone before dinner, explain “I'm very curious to hear about your day. I know you want to tell your friend about it, but this is family time.  You can talk with your friends after dinner from eight o'clock to eight forty five.”  Explain to your children that ignoring people, or avoiding face to face conversations, in favor of cellphone conversations, is rude and simply not tolerated.

8.   Using cellphones to send offensive or inappropriate photos or text messages is rude, dangerous and can lead to criminal charges. Discuss these issues openly with your children so they are well aware of the dangers. This is especially important with respect to sending messages or photos with blatant sexual images or containing sexual innuendo. "Sexting" by minors is considered dissemination of child pornography and has been vigorously prosecuted in many cases.

9.   Talking on cellphone or texting when driving a vehicle is one of the most dangerous and egregious misuses of cellphones. Serious accidents and fatalities have occurred because of this simple error in judgment. Impress upon your child that texting, or answering a call while driving is simply not allowed. Period. Set a good example for your child by modeling this sound behavior. It is a good idea to disallow the use of cellphone from any passenger in an automobile that is being driven by a teenager.

10.   Teach your children to be charitable. While cell phones are normally not to be shared, they can be lifesaving communication tools in an emergency situation. Make sure your child knows how to dial important family numbers, 911, and other emergency contacts. Instruct your child about how to properly handle emergency calls, and what type of information to provide.

11.  Children should understand basic issues of privacy with respect to cellphones. This is a very important, but subjective, aspect of teaching cellphone etiquette. Messages and photos should not be forwarded without permission of any person involved. Likewise, photos should not be uploaded to social media, like Facebook, without consent.

12.  It is wise to impress upon children that the cellphone and usage minutes belong to the person paying the bill for them. They should not borrow, abuse or over-phone another child's cellphone.

Many parents find that cellphone use is a privilege, a convenience and a safety tool that is invaluable. Teaching cellphone etiquette to children is an integral part of raising kids who are polite and aware of social boundaries.

Cellphone Etiquette: 10 Dos and Don'ts
Basic Rules of Cellphone Etiquette

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