We've all been in that awkward situation when someone takes a call or sends a text message at an inappropriate time. And it can even be embarrassing when that someone is your teen. As parents, we want to give our kids the world but are we the cause of bad cell phone etiquette when we cave to pressure put on us by kids?
Regardless of what your teen says you're the only person who can decide if they're ready to have a cell phone. Having one may be commonplace among friends, but in your house having a cell phone is a large responsibility. Right off the bat, establish that cell phone use has boundaries, expectations and limitations as well as consequences for falling short and rewards for achieving goals.
Originally developed to talk with others while on the go, cell phones have progressed far from just making phone calls. Decide with your teen on quiet zones where cell phone use is not permitted (school, dinner, church, family time, movies, etc.). Emphasize that no matter how important a call or text message may be, it should not be answered in quiet zones, like school. If you need to get a hold of them during the school day, contact the school.
Try creating specific usage times during the day (after school, on weekends, etc.) for your teens to communicate with friends. If your teen takes to your guidelines easily, reward them with additional monthly text or talk minutes.
When your teen finally steps behind the wheel one of the most important things they'll need to remember is that under no circumstances are they to talk, text or surf the web while driving. Regardless of who calls. No text message or call is worth the risk of injuring, or killing yourself or others. Wait until your parked to return a call or text.
Some parents may even take the precaution of not allowing calls or text when teens are in a car with another young driver. Teens are easily distracted and having other teens making noise, taking calls while driving can endanger everyone in the car.
Make sure your teen understands that some calls are not appropriate to have in the middle of the mall. Even though teens get easily wrapped up in conversation, remember that other people can hear and see you. Wait until they get home before engaging in a heated conversation.
Minding your manners in public is also important cell phone etiquette. Language or topics of discussion that may be normal to you and the person on the other line may not always be appropriate for the person sitting next to you on the bus. Follow the simple rule: If you wouldn't walk around with certain words written on your t-shirt don't say them when talking on the phone in a public place.
The best way to raise polite, smart cell phone users is by being good role models. Our teens will emulate what they see us do. So if we pick up our cell phones during movies or at restaurants, they will also. Once you decide to bestow the privilege of having a cell phone to your teen, talk them through what it means and what's expected of them. If you're clear about what you expect in return, there won't be any discussion later on down the line.