Electronic Etiquette

Tricia Brown
Electronic Etiquette

Teaching Children to Use Devices Appropriately

I was in the optometrist office recently. After checking in with the front desk, I sat down in the lobby. It didn’t take long to hear it—this annoying, scratching electronic sound. I glanced around the small room and spotted a young boy playing a game on his electronic tablet. It irked me. The noise was irritating. And then I immediately felt bad. I have four boys. I know how hard it can be to entertain them in doctors' offices and waiting rooms, and this little one was sitting quietly, playing nicely on his own.  Still, I was glad that I was called back to a room quickly.

Hand-held game systems, electronic tablets, smart phones and regular cell phones--electronic gadgets are everywhere. And they can be such a blessing, but they can also be a curse. They go with us and our children everywhere. As parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children how to handle them responsibly and appropriately. Today’s “good manners” are far more complicated than “please” and “thank you.” Consider the following suggestions:

Teach them to consider the “audience.” Encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings. If they are in a quiet setting (such as waiting room) where there are other people sitting close, they should lower or mute the sound settings on their games or devices. In a larger, more undefined space (such as at a ballpark or gym), the sound may not be as noticeable or bothersome.

Teach them to communicate effectively. Remind your children to turn off or set aside their electronic devices when someone is speaking to them. There are few things more annoying than trying to have a conversation with someone who is texting or playing a game. While everyone appreciates someone who can multitask, no one appreciates being ignored. Children should learn to stop playing or texting and give the person who is speaking their full attention.

Teach them to be respectful of sacred places. Recently, there was a child sitting in front of us at church using an electronic tablet to read a story. There was no sound, but the effect was still troublesome. Our church dims the lights during the service; so the electronic lighting had the effect of a flashlight pointing back at the people in the row behind. It was distracting. In fact, so much so, that I almost found myself reading the boy’s story over his shoulder! People are different. Circumstances and expectations are different; so there are not any hard and fast rules. Use your discretion and teach your children to use their discretion when using electronic devices in situations such as worship services, funeral services, weddings, business meetings, etc. At the very least, mute the sound.

Teach them to pay attention. Just as we admonish drivers to never text and drive, we must explain to our children that they need to pay attention when they are walking. Maybe you have seen the internet video of a child playing a handheld game. He wasn’t paying any attention to where he was walking and stepped off the subway station sidewalk right onto the tracks. Thankfully, adults helped lift him out in time. That is obviously an extreme example. It is much more common for children to shuffle along bumping into passersby. Encourage your children to put the games away and pay attention to their surroundings when walking. Not only is it more polite, it is also much safer. Distracted children can be an easy target for predators.

We live in an electronic age, and electronics are a huge convenience. It is much easier to keep children happy and quiet when they have an interesting game to play. It is easier to carry an electronic reader with a variety of story choices than a bag full of books. Electronics are great, but we must remember that the digital age has not done away with the need for good manners. As adults we must set good examples for them, using our own devices appropriately, and we must help guide them in how to wisely and appropriately use their own. Perhaps the most important thing to teach our children in regards to electronic etiquette and etiquette in general is to be considerate of others.