Smartphone Etiquette – 6 Rules For Teens and Tweens

Smartphone Etiquette Tips For Teens

FTC Disclosure

When it comes time to hand our kids their first smartphone we’re often so focused on keeping them safe from predators and bullying that we forget to talk to them about basic smartphone etiquette. Our kids are digital natives so we think they’re familiar with how to use their phone. After all, they have been using our devices for years.

But using our phones and tablets to play games and watch videos didn’t teach them how to be a good smartphone user. It taught them other skills, but not many of the skills we take for granted and just assume our kids know. While we’ve had to weave tech into our parenting, there are many “old school” parenting things we’re still responsible to teach.

6 Smartphone Etiquette Rules for Teens & Tweens

  1. How to properly answer a call. Don’t leave! Seriously, we have to teach our kids how to properly answer a call. Remember, when we grew up we had a landline and often raced our siblings or begged our parents to answer the phone. Some of us even created “an adult voice” so we could convince our parents we’d be OK to stay home by ourselves. But we practiced answering the phone – saying hello, being polite, asking for the person to identify themselves. Sure, there’s caller-ID, but what if they don’t recognize the number but they’re expecting you or another family member to call? What if it’s the school or a potential employer? And, yes, I know, chances are kids will let the call go to voice mail, but one day they may get a job where they have to answer a telephone and I’m sure they won’t want to tell their boss they don’t know how.
  2. How to make a phone call. I know, you’re thinking I’ve lost my mind and kids know how to make a phone call. Honestly though, I don’t think so. They text, they don’t call. And if they do call, it’s likely mom or dad they’re calling. Again, we practiced making calls. We’d call the grandparents and leave a message, or we’d call the store to see if something was in stock, or we’d call our friends and have to get past their parents. We did a lot of calling that kids today don’t need to do. That’s why teaching them how to make a proper phone call is so important. First impressions still count!
  3. Respect other people’s privacy. This has many applications, but I’m specifically talking about respecting the privacy of another person if you’re using their phone. While one of the rules most parents have for their kids is not to let their friends use their phone, there may be times when someone has to use their phone or they have to ask a friend to use their phone. Dead batteries happen, so let’s ensure our kids know not to go looking through a friend’s phone. Even more important, if they’re ever in a position that they’re being encouraged by friends to take another kid’s phone and snoop they may be more likely to think twice and not do it. Or, play along until they can tell an adult. But this idea of respecting privacy also means not looking over your shoulder to see what their friends are texting or trying to spy their password or unlock pattern.
  4. Be mindful of other people. It’s great that kids can keep themselves entertained while waiting. However, no one wants to listen to their music, text notifications, sounds from games, or any other sounds your smartphone can make. They can play games and listen to music, but they need to have the device on silent or use headphones.
  5. Do not share private information. Maybe not so much traditional etiquette as it is general rules for having a smartphone, but important enough to include it here. When we were their age we were constantly told not to tell people on the other side of the phone that our parents weren’t home. And while some people have had our address, we weren’t tagged with GPS for the whole world to find us. Of course we need to teach them not to disclose private information on apps or in game chats or on messaging apps. However, our private information is more easily disclosed inadvertently with geotagging, answering basic questions from “friends” (many of whom the kids have never met), or including information in photos (whether purposefully or accidentally). We need to be clear what is and is not private information, so the kids don’t have to wonder.
  6. Don’t interrupt a face-to-face conversation to use your phone. This is the general rule. And yes, there are exceptions – like when mom is calling. Generally, though, if they’re placing their order at the coffee shop, checking out at a store, or having a face-to-face conversation with someone they shouldn’t answer the phone whether it’s a call or text. It may be difficult, so you may need to role play this. While younger people may have more tolerance for this, in situations where you’re buying things it can cause miscommunication or delays that could easily be avoided by giving the situation their full attention.

Overall, I’m sure you’d agree these are pretty basic rules and likely easy for kids to follow. But while they’re easy to follow rules, some will require practice (and patience). For the most part though, even though they may not be intuitive for teens and tweens, I think kids will find them helpful. What do you think? Should there be other rules?

Smartphone Etiquette for Teens and Tweens

Photo Credit for top image.
Photo Credit for bottom image.

Sara

Teens, Tweens, Tech Safety and Making Mistakes

Teen Tech Parenting Safety

FTC Disclosure

June is Internet Safety Month. Not a day goes by that BabyGirl isn’t online in some fashion. The interesting thing is that I’ve also seen October designated as Online Safety Month. As the parent of a tween, though, every month is Internet and Online Safety Month. Tech minefields are discovered every day and we can’t wait for one month to sit our kids down and talk about staying safe online.

In reality, it’s not easy to talk to kids about online safety. For many parents, the nuances of tech safety are more confusing than trying to learn a foreign language. Parents use tech differently than their children, regardless of age. When it comes to teens and tweens using tech, these digital natives are often the ones teaching their parents. Lessons about online safety are often just examples of where other kids have gone wrong. And, well, our kids would never to that.

Ask any parent of a tween or teen and they’ll tell you how happy they are that social media and the online world didn’t exists when they were a kid. When I was a kid, we made mistakes and did stupid things. Sometimes our friends were with us. But we had something our kids don’t have today – the ability to learn from their mistakes.

Kids today aren’t allowed to make mistakes. The consequences are so high, as parents we’re often more fearful of our kid making a mistake than they are. They’re just kids and may not see the horrible consequences mistakes have had on other young people. We certainly have, though. Then again, they probably have too.

The online world has removed the ability to make a mistake. Gone are the days of “learning from our mistakes”. That’s just impossible with technology. At the same time, though, we know that kids don’t listen to everything we say and glean the important message we’re trying to get across.

Every word, click, double-tap, like, share, retweet, and action is under constant scrutiny. Not only from us, their parents, but from their friends and strangers alike. For as much as we talk about online safety, there really is no such thing for our kids. It’s more like how can we make it less dangerous because safety is about being protected from harm or danger and in the online world today that’s next to impossible.

Throwing our hands up and doing nothing is not an option. And banning them from all things tech isn’t either. So what do we do to make the internet and mobile technology less dangerous for our tweens and teens?

1. Talk to them. Yes, just like teaching them about personal safety and safe touch we need to talk to them about safety with people we can’t see or touch. It’s not easy to talk about anonymity and people lying about their age or gender, but we have to do it. It’s uncomfortable talking about sex and often even more uncomfortable talking about virtual sex and porn. Unlike our parents, though, who often left it to books, magazines, or sex-ed we don’t have that luxury.

2. Trust them. The news if full of horrible things kids are doing online. But the truth is not all kids are doing those things. Not every kids is bullied or bullying. Not every girl is sending compromising pictures of herself to boys. Not every anonymous gamer is on the FBI most wanted list. If we are talking to our kids and having meaningful and helpful conversations, we have to trust that them when they say everything’s cool.

3. Create Offline Opportunities. Kids can’t get all their validation and conversation from in front of a screen. There is an entire world out there to explore and people to meet. When their friends come over, figure out things they can do that don’t have them sitting next to each other texting or watching crazy online videos. Hands-on crafts, cooking or baking, making, and creating are all things that we did that helped to shape us into the people we are today. Kids today are no different. It’s fun to hang out in the virtual world, but there’s so much more depth learned by being present in the physical world.

Yes, these 3 simple things can help our kids immensely when it comes to tech safety. Sure, there are parental controls to limit access to online content. That’s a limited solution, especially for teens and tweens who know how to bypass parental controls. You can forbid them to download certain apps, but there are many decoy apps kids download to hide things from parents.

Honestly, though, it comes down to open communication and trust when it comes to keeping our kids safe (or just safer) online. You don’t need to spend tons of money on apps or special wifi to block their access. We just need to talk to our kids. Although, sometimes that’s easier said than done.

How do you help your kids stay safe online? Have you talked to them about the consequences of making mistakes online?

Sara