Written by P. Humbargar
Just about everyone has encountered people who talk on cell phones in loud or annoying ways or who rudely interrupt conversations to answer their cell phones or check their text messages. In most instances, these annoying habits are probably inadvertent—the cell phone users are just unaware of how disrespectful such behavior can be viewed by others. After all, widespread cell phone use is a relatively recent development, so proper cell phone etiquette isn’t something most people were able to learn from their parents.
Today, with children being strapped to cell phones at increasingly younger ages, it is important that parents and other adults set a good example for them when using their cell phones. Just as we teach kids to say, “Please,” and “Thank you,” we should teach them to be courteous when using cell phones in public.
Back in the days of rotary phones and party lines, telephone etiquette was a simple matter. Telephone conversations took place at home, not out in public. The only telephone rules back then were to not stay on the phone too long—as someone else might need the line for an emergency, and don’t ever eavesdrop on anyone who is on the line. (For those who don’t know, years ago, several households had to share one phone line—the “party line”—and you were unable to call out or receive calls if another household was currently using their phone. You could also hear their conversation if you picked up the phone while they were on the line.) Teaching children telephone courtesy today is obviously much more complicated!
Telephone courtesy in our wireless world is still evolving. In 2002, Jacqueline Whitmore, author and authority on business etiquette, founded National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. By doing so, she hoped to educate cell phone users about the proper way to use their phones without annoying those around them.
Jacqueline suggests taking the following steps (reproduced here in their entirety) to avoid offending others:
1. Be all there. When you’re in a meeting, performance, courtroom, or other busy area, let calls go to voicemail to avoid a disruption. In some instances, turning your phone off may be the best solution.
2. Keep it private. Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid discussing private or confidential information in public. You never know who may be in hearing range.
3. Keep your cool. Don’t display anger during a public call. Conversations that are likely to be emotional should be held where they will not embarrass or intrude on others.
4. Learn to vibe. Use your wireless phone’s silent or vibration settings in public places, such as business meetings, religious services, schools, restaurants, theaters, or sporting events so that you do not disrupt your surroundings.
5. Avoid “cell yell.” Remember to use your regular conversational tone when speaking on your wireless phone. People tend to speak more loudly than normal and often don’t recognize how distracting they can be to others.
6. Follow the rules. Some places, such as hospitals or airplanes, restrict or prohibit the use of mobile phones, so adhere to posted signs and instructions. Some jurisdictions may also restrict mobile phone use in public places.
7. Excuse yourself. If you are expecting a call that can’t be postponed, alert your companions ahead of time, and excuse yourself when the call comes in; the people you are with should take precedence over calls you want to make or receive.
8. Send a message. Use Text Messaging to send and receive messages without saying a single word.
9. Watch and listen discreetly. New multimedia applications, such as streaming video and music are great ways to stay informed and access the latest entertainment. However, adjust the volume based on your surroundings in much the same way that you would adjust your ringer volume. Earphones are a great way to avoid distracting others in public areas.
10. Alert silently. When using your phone’s walkie-talkie feature, send the person you’re trying to reach a Call Alert before starting to speak. If you’re around other people, turn off your phone’s external speaker, and use the vibration setting to minimize any disturbance and to respect your contact’s privacy.
In addition to these rules of cell phone courtesy, it is also of utmost importance that we never—ever—text or use the cell phone while driving and that we make sure our kids of driving age understand never to do so either. Driving while distracted, by texting or talking on a cell phone, is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. Children need to realize that no phone conversation or text message is worth killing or injuring oneself or other innocent people!
As parents, we need to lead by example—to follow rules of common courtesy when using our cell phones and to wait a few minutes until we’re off the road to have our wireless conversations.
If you have any other suggestions or tips to share with Chelsea’s community, please leave a comment!