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Modern Etiquette: Manners for a Wired World

Modern Etiquette: Manners for a Wired World

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Updated on Nov 1, 2013

The holiday season is just around the corner, which means festive gatherings with friends and family. While there will certainly be a seat for every aunt, uncle, and cousin, it’s also likely that one disruptive, uninvited “guest” will show up to dinner: the ever-present cell phone. Here are quick tips to help you glide through the holidays with grace—and avoid the embarrassment of your tech-obsessed kid offending party-going relatives and friends.

RSVP in kind. If you and your child have been invited to a dinner via email, accept the invitation with your own email—don’t zip off a text message just because it’s more convenient. If you can’t make the event because of last-minute circumstances, dial the host and give your regrets personally. Texting, “Can’t make it, so sorry” right before the party isn’t courteous—and it’s important you show your kid how to handle invites without being rude.

Ditch your devices at the door. Encourage your child to tuck away her phone as soon as she arrives at someone’s home. She’ll probably pout about handing over her iPhone, so suggest a compromise. Allow her to listen to her mp3 player or message pals in the car on the way to the gathering, but make sure she stashes her gadgets upon arrival.

Stay present. Even if a get-together is just kicking off with drinks and appetizers, it’s important to remind your kid to focus all her attention on the host and party-goers. Whether folks are standing up and socializing casually, or sitting down at a dining room table, people will feel excluded when your little techie updates her Facebook status mid-conversation.

Apologize in advance. If you’re awaiting an urgent call from your pregnant sister or impatient boss, tell others ahead of time that the phone may interrupt the meal. Apologizing in advance signals that you’re thinking of your fellow diners. Be sure to tell your kid that this is reserved for emergencies only—not to catch up on school gossip with the girls.

Keep cell phones, like elbows, off the table. Ringing, beeping, and flashing hardly make for pleasant, distraction-free dinnertime conversation. If your teen needs her phone at the table, make sure it’s on vibrate, and have her place it in her lap or purse.

Talk away from the table. You’ve warned others that a call will be coming in. When it does, excuse yourself and go somewhere out of earshot. This way, you won’t tempt others to strain to hear what you’re saying, or interrupt discussions at the table.

Chat about chat and talk about texting. When the subject of technology comes up, don’t shy away from sharing your opinions. It’s beneficial for your young smartphone wizard to wise up about how older generations feel about the constant presence of techie trinkets, and their expectations of others. Conversely, this is the perfect opportunity for your teen to explain the appeal of being plugged in to the world around her, making for an interesting and engaging dinnertime debate.

Send your thanks. The morning after a family soiree, remind your kid to be a grateful guest and call Grandma to say thank you for making her favorite sweet potato casserole. Small gestures of thanks to make people feel appreciated are well worth the ten minutes they take.

Advances in technology constantly call for up-to-date etiquette standards. Equipped with these tips, your teen will have the dos and don’ts she needs to interact with people graciously in today’s wired world.

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