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Do You Have Device and Phone Etiquette?

Lori Freson

Responsibilities & Values

In this day and age, it seems everywhere you look, nearly everyone has a smart phone and other devices. Even toddlers can be spotted with these devices in restaurants, on airplanes, and even in cars. On many levels, these devices are not all bad. They help us entertain our children, so we can make it through a flight or meal with minimal problems. They keep us connected to our colleagues, friends, and family in ways previously not possible. Information is readily available about literally anything. But, with any privilege, comes responsibility and common sense. You have a duty to use devices in respectful and appropriate ways.

What is proper phone and device etiquette anyway? Let’s start by defining etiquette in the first place. According to Oxford Dictionary, etiquette is “The customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.” I think the important word here is ‘polite’. What is polite? I think it’s not really that hard to know what is polite and what the right thing to do in most situations is. Simply ask yourself if the behavior might bother or annoy other people. If it might, then you probably shouldn’t do it. To help you out, here are some guidelines for appropriate phone and device etiquette.

  • Don’t talk on your phone in a supermarket, bank, nail salon, restaurant, or anywhere else where total strangers might have to listen to you. First of all, it is loud and obnoxious. Second of all, I don’t want to be bothered with details of what is going on in every stranger’s world. I don’t care. I deserve to eat or shop or whatever in peace and quiet. Step outside if you must talk, or wait until you’re done inside to talk. Think about the other people and whether or not this is an appropriate place to be talking on your phone.
  • If your toddler or child is going to watch a video or play a game in a restaurant or waiting room or airplane, either turn the volume off or use headphones. It is not okay to force other people out dining, seeking medical care or traveling to have to endure the sounds of Elmo and Dora the Explorer. Notice that I’m not saying your toddler can’t use the device. I’m simply saying that you have an obligation to be mindful and respectful of all the other people in the area, not just yourself.
  • The same applies to adults. I don’t want to hear you playing Solitaire or hear your movie, or anything else really. Turn your sound off or get some headphones. You are not the only one on an airplane or in a waiting room. Be mindful of this always.
  • When you talk or play on your device in a restaurant, you are sending a message to whomever you are dining with, whether it is business or family, that your device is more important than them. Furthermore, you are setting an example for your children. Do you want them to treasure the face-to-face time with other human beings and treat them with respect? Then put the devices down.
  • If you attend church or synagogue, and cannot make it through your service without checking your device, you have a problem. Turn it off, or leave it in the car. You will survive. Just like you did before we all had these devices. Consider the likelihood that you are literally addicted to your device if you can’t go one hour without it.
  • When you’re in public places and need to communicate with someone, try text messaging instead of talking on the phone. It is still pretty effective, but doesn’t bother others in the same way. You can even send a text saying that you can’t talk right now, and then call the person back later. That being said, some conversations are actually worthy of calling back later, as you can’t discuss lengthy topics over text. You’re still human and should make a human connection sometimes.

Most importantly, remember that your behavior sends messages to others. If you’re being rude in public, the message is that you’re more important than everyone else. Lack of consideration for others is selfish and immature. When you are with your partner, but choose your phone over him or her, you are saying that your partner is less important to you than your phone. And when your children see you obsessively checking and using your phone, they will follow suit. They want to be just like Mommy or Daddy, and will mimic everything you say and do. So, before you grab that phone out of your purse or pocket, ask yourself if it’s really worth it right now.

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Lori Freson

Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.