5 Tips for Teaching Technology Etiquette to Kids

Kids are little sponges, absorbing everything adults do or say—as anyone who’s stubbed their toe and cursed around a three-year-old can attest. How you act and the things you say influence your children, and most parents try to set a good example, especially where manners are concerned.

Proper etiquette today means more than “please,” “thank you,” and keeping your elbows off the table. Mobile devices have raised a host of technology-based etiquette issues that didn’t exist not so long ago, and your kids are likely to use tech the way you do. With that in mind, here’s a few suggestions for teaching technology etiquette to kids.

Speak Softly and Be Considerate

Whenever possible, speak quietly when talking on the phone in a public place. No-one needs to have their own conversations interrupted by loud phone user. This applies to people who aren’t talking as well—hearing only half of a phone conversation really distracts people from what they’re focusing on.

Teach kids that being quiet isn’t enough—they also should consider what they’re saying. Few people want to hear a stranger discuss their endoscopy, how mean their girlfriend was, or whether they can afford to go home for Thanksgiving this year. Some subjects are meant to be private.

Know When Not to Use Your Phone

People use smartphones everywhere, but just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Anyone using their phone in a movie theater, for instance, is rightly considered a monster by those around him.

In addition to movie theaters, teach kids not to make calls in places of worship, libraries, class, or fancy restaurants. Any location where quiet is expected should be a place where people avoid using their phones (feel free to add the dining room table to the list). If you must have your phone on in such places, set it to vibrate and leave the area to talk.

Texting Etiquette

Of course, the last thing kids use phones for is to make old-fashioned phone calls. Texting is the communication method of choice among kids, and it has some advantages—you can text about a personal matter in a coffee shop without disturbing your neighbors.

Even so, texting has some limits. Texting in class, during church sermons, or at the dinner table is rude and disrespectful, while texting on the job can get you fired. In dark theaters, the light from a phone is just as distracting as someone making a phone call, and texting in a grocery checkout line holds up the line for those behind you.

And then, of course, there’s texting and driving, which can be summed up in one word: don’t.

Phones are Things, People are Real

Manners change with time, and in a few years ignoring a text may be seen as just as rude as ignoring someone in front of you while you answer a text (some would argue this shift has already begun). For now, however, real-world interactions still take precedence over phone use. Have conversations with your kids. Teach them about the importance of eye contact and focusing on the other person. In the rare case when they absolutely must check their phone, teach them to ask the other person to excuse them for a moment.

Privacy Matters

Smartphones have made everyone a photographer, but not everyone wants to be photographed. Always ask a person’s permission before taking their picture—they may not want to be displayed on someone else’s social media feed.

When someone offers you a phone to view a picture or watch a video, never swipe the screen—doing so is an invasion of privacy. They may want to show you a picture of their three-year-old, but none of the other photos.

Teaching your children about technology etiquette is important. Technology plays a huge role in family life nowadays, as the many articles in our Family and Tech blog demonstrate. Children should see technology for what it is—a tool to enhance life without overwhelming other interests. Good luck out there, and remember—the kids are watching!