Modern Etiquette: 9 Tips for a Tech-Free Table
The holiday season is just around the corner, which means good will, cheer, and lots of festive gatherings with friends and family. While there will certainly be a seat for every aunt, uncle and cousin at these gatherings, it’s also likely that one noisy, disruptive and uninvited “guest” will show up to dinner: the ever-present cell phone.
According to the Pew Foundation, 75 percent of American teenagers have a cell phone—and texting is the primary way teens connect with their friends. As your teen tests her social wings, she may become fixated on interacting instantaneously with friends, which often means nonstop buzzing, clicking and a tuned-out teenager that’s more interested in her phone than interacting with the people around her.
Etiquette no longer just means elbows off the table and chewing with your mouth closed. Here are quick tips to glide through the new year 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 may be tempting, but it isn’t courteous—and it’s important you show your teen 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 the homes of friends, family or colleagues. 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 of 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 teen updates her Facebook status mid-conversation.
- Telephone transparency. 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 teen that this is reserved for emergencies only—not to catch up on school gossip with the girls.
- 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 chat away from earshot. This way, you won’t tempt others to strain to hear what you’re saying, or interrupt discussions at the table.
- Swallow your food! Cell phones act as amplifiers, so sounds are magnified to the person on the other end. Remind your teen to finish chewing and chomping before saying, “Hello!”
- Electronic talk. When the subject of technology comes up, don’t shy away from sharing your opinions. It’s beneficial for your young smart phone 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 teen to call grandma to say thank you for making your daughter’s favorite sweet potato casserole. Taking ten minutes to express her gratitude will help your teen remember that small gestures of thanks are expected, and make the person who helped her out feel appreciated.
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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