Rude vs. Respectful: A Guide to Cell Phone Etiquette | Working Mother

Rude vs. Respectful: A Guide to Cell Phone Etiquette

Shhh! Is that your phone ringing again? Learn the do’s and don’ts of cell phone etiquette this month in honor of National Cell Phone Courtesy Month.

Boy Using Cell Phone Etiquette During Dinner

Teach your kid dinnertime is not cell phone time.

Photo: iStock

We adore our glossy pocket-sized communication devices. We dress them up in new phone cases, shiver at the thought of a shattered screen and dread the low battery warning. They are the devices behind the selfie, the reason we can check our email on-the-go and an effortless way to communicate with our tech-addicted kids. But whenever we hear the familiar ping, feel the tremble in our purse or watch the screen sparkle, we’re signaled to reach for our phone. Immediately, our frenzied fingers fly across the screen, tip-tapping away, until the “sent” button has been hit or the call has been answered.

This constant yearning for and continual eyeing of our phones often interferes with how we present ourselves. Our personalities are at times hidden behind a "5 x 4" screen. While we swipe, slide and stream on our phones, others may feel insulted as we pay more attention to the palm of our hands. So in honor of National Cell Phone Courtesy month, here is our guide to what is rude and what is respectful in terms of cell phone etiquette, not only for working mothers, but to share with all the textaholics in your household.

Unwittingly doing the “cell yell.” Whether you’re chit-chatting with your best friend about pilates class or on an important business call, be aware of your surroundings. Avoid “cell yell” when you’re in a public place, says etiquette expert and author Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. Cellphone users often become so engrossed in their conversation, they neglect to use conversational tones. Make sure to keep the volume down so you don’t draw attention to yourself or your conversation.

Having your phone out during a movie, performance or monumental service. Even though you're somewhat anonymous in a crowd of people, restrain yourself from checking your phone “during any sort of life-altering service, such as a wedding, funeral or christening,” says Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert. You may be under the impression that no one is paying attention to you, but it's still very disrespectful to those hosting the service (and you'd be surprised how often people do it).

If you’re thinking of seeing a Patti LuPone show anytime soon, put the phone away. This dazzling diva snagged a cell phone out of the actively texting fingers of a patron during a live performance of Shows for Days earlier this month. (Yikes, poor Patti!) Texting during a performance is massive faux pas in cell phone etiquette, one reportedly committed by Madonna, who was spotted texting away during a performance of Hamilton. The worst offender might be the audience member at Hand to God who paraded onto the stage to charge his phone in a vacant outlet—a non-working part of the set. Yikes! You of course know better than to keep your phone on, answer a call, text or update (yes, the light is bothersome), or—really?—charge your phone at a movie or theater performance.

Giving in to the time check. Despite the Apple Watch (or any other timepiece), smartphones are now the most popular time-keeping device. When you’re with company, avoid shuffling through your pocket or purse every time you want to find out what time it is. You may just be glancing for the time, but it could turn into something more if you see you have a message. Give your company your full attention by tucking away your phone—and maybe dusting off that old watch.

Waiting to post on social media. You’re out with your favorite gal pals or a couple folks from the office, and you just got served an oh-so-appetizing dish that is indeed Instagram worthy. “If you’re in a restaurant, I believe it’s perfectly fine to take pictures of the food or the moment,” says Swann. “Fire away. But wait until later to post the photo—it’s the back-and-forth that's distracting." Think: lingering questions like “Did I post it correctly?” or “Did I get any likes?” that tempt us to keep digging into our bag for the answer. By waiting until later to post, you can still capture the moment and get right back to your company.

Putting it on vibrate. “Learn to vibe,” advises Whitmore. Whether in a business meeting or at the grocery store, no one wants to hear the obnoxious chiming of your phone. Place it on vibrate and bury it away. If you’re in a pickle and need your phone handy to, say, catch an important call, place it on vibrate and keep it on you (and don’t keep eyeing it). “Just say you’re expecting a very important call and dismiss yourself from the table,” says Whitmore.

Creating tech-free zones (hint: include the dinner table). The separation anxiety can be rough, especially when you were just conquering in Candy Crush, but designating no-phone places and time periods is key for moms—especially when the kids are around. While your teen may be used to dinner with a side of texting a BFF in some foreign code “you’re just not cool enough to understand,” set an example with firm boundaries for the whole family. “Have times to disconnect, such as between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.,” says Whitmore, adding that it allows for family dinners and bonding without tech distractions. Hopefully, the kids'll get used to it and grow into adults who are okay with putting their phones away around company.


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