Unplug from your phone and make courtesy a priority

By STEPHANIE KALINA-METZGER
for Smart

YDR file photo

A text here.

A quick phone call while waiting in line there.

Cellphones are everywhere, but there are few hard-and-fast rules about their usage.

With the demands of today’s society, many adults feel the need to be plugged in around the clock, but there’s a delicate balance between being in the loop and being downright rude, according to Harrisburg etiquette expert Norma Kenley-Barber.

The owner and president of Helping Young Minds Now, Kenley-Barber said that laying the ground rules for cellphone usage should begin at home.

Face-to-face interaction should trump phone conversation.

“If you’re talking to someone and your phone rings, you should either ignore it or answer it and tell the person on the other end that you’ll call them back later,” she said.

“Parents should follow the same rules they set down for the children; this includes engaging fully in conversation,” she added.

Of course, common sense is not always the common denominator when it comes to cellphone usage.

Sure we all know that we should turn the phone off in the movie theater, or in church, or while in meetings, but what other rules should apply?

“Finish conversations before you approach a cash register,” said Kenley-Barber, “and if your phone rings when the cashier is ringing you up, just ignore it. It’s all about respect.”

That respect also applies to end-of-the-day parent-child interaction, according to Kenley-Barber who suggests setting aside 30 minutes for bonding time after school or work.

For parents who are confronted with a child walking through the door with a phone glued to their ear or thumbs, Kenley-Barber has some solid advice.

“Tell them ‘your friends can wait a minute,’” she said.

The same applies to bringing the phone to the dinner table.

“They’d better not bring that phone out,” she said, laughing.

She also suggests limiting children’s cellphone minutes.

“Children love to talk and can easily run up those bills,” she said, adding that by capping minutes, it teaches them to set priorities, rather than mindlessly picking up the phone and dialing.

“You might want to encourage your child to invite their a friend over to the house to work on homework together in person, rather than encourage phone conversation,” she said.

And while texting might seem less rude than answering a phone call, Kenley-Barber said it shouldn’t trump common courtesy.

“Texting, for the most part, should be done in private,” she said.

For adults, that means giving meetings and employees your full attention. In the case of emergencies, she suggests developing a family text signal, like “9-1-1,” which would denote an emergency.

She suggests that a good rule of thumb is to be mindful of those around you when you answer your phone or text.

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