6 Ways to Teach Your Teen Cellphone Etiquette

Help your teen banish bad cellphone manners.
Dean Belcher / Stone / Getty Images

Growing up in the digital world means many teens don’t recognize their bad cellphone habits. They’re accustomed to texting while walking and scrolling through social media in the middle of a conversation.

Without and understanding of what’s considered inappropriate, teens often break common etiquette rules. And sometimes those faux pas - like replying to a text message during a job interview or scrolling through social media while meeting with a college admissions officer - can have serious consequences.

Teach your teen appropriate cellphone etiquette with these six strategies:

1. Practice Making Phone Calls

Today’s teens are so used to text messaging, that many of them aren’t comfortable talking on the phone. And while much of the need for phone conversation has been eliminated by technology, there are still some circumstances that require a phone conversation.

Create opportunities for your teen to practice making phone calls. Request your teen inquire about a businesses’ hours of operation or tell her schedule her own hair appointment. Although it may seem obvious to you, many teens don’t know how to greet someone, how to end the conversation, or how to leave a voicemail message.

Coach your teen as needed. If she’s nervous about making a call, practice what to say before she dials the phone. Give her feedback after she ends the call and help her improve her phone communication skills.

2. Be a Good Role Model

Telling your teen to put the phone away during dinner won’t work if you’re guilty of doing the same thing.

Be a good role model by showing your teen appropriate phone etiquette.

When your teen talks to you, put the phone down and make good eye contact. Don’t respond to text messages during dinner. And don’t obsessively check your messages during family time.

3. Talk About Etiquette Issues Often

Smartphone etiquette isn’t always a black or white issue.

There are always exception to the rule and times when your teen may struggle to make the best choice.

Talk about potential dilemmas and sticky situations. Ask thoughtful questions like, “What if you were with a friend and another friend called crying?” or “How do you respond when a friend makes an inappropriate comment on social media?” Talk about the importance treating people with kindness and respect, both online and in-person.

4. Point Out Etiquette Violations

Whether your teen struggles to put the phone down when she’s responding to your questions, or you caught her texting in church, point out those etiquette violations.

For minor infractions, offer a gentle reminder and turn it into a learning opportunity. Discuss strategies that can help your teen resist the temptation to use her phone inappropriately. Acknowledge times when you’ve made mistakes and discuss the strategies you use to make better choices in the future.

5. Follow Through with Consequences when Necessary

If your teen’s cellphone use crosses the line from an etiquette offense to a rule violation, follow through with a consequence.

Texting while driving, sexting, or staying up all night on social media, are just a few behaviors that require more serious intervention.

Use discipline that will teach life lessons and encourage your teen to make better choices in the future. For example, take away your teen’s cellphone for 24 hours or create a list of extra responsibilities that must be completed before your teen can earn back his cellphone privileges.

6. Teach Your Teen Life Skills

Ongoing cellphone etiquette violations could stem from a lack of life skills. A teen who struggles with anger management skills may react to an upsetting text messages with aggression. Or a teen who lacks problem-solving skills may have trouble identifying how to remember to shut off his phone when he’s in school.

When you notice your teen is struggling with the same problems repeatedly, consider whether your teen may have some skills deficits. Proactively teach your teen new skills and new behavior that will help improve his cellphone etiquette.

Continue Reading