Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Communication Etiquette: Top 5 Rules You Should Teach Your Children

I grew up in a time when there was only a land line phone for each house, no cell phone.  A time where you were lucky if you had a long enough phone cord so that you could move from one place to another in your room. A time that did not have call waiting or caller id.  We actually had to answer the phone when it rang instead of looking at caller id and deciding not to answer because we weren't in the mood to talk to that person right then.  If it was a salesman, you had to talk to them.  If it was a friend that you were mad at, you had to answer the phone because what if it had been someone else and you had missed that phone call?  We did not have an answering machine for years, so I would have never known who was calling if I didn't pick up the phone.  There was no call waiting, so phones were often busy.  But, as always, the world keeps evolving and things change.

Our children are growing up in a world of instant satisfaction.  A world full of cellphones, computers, iPads, e-readers, etc.  If you can't reach someone on their home phone, you can call their cellphone, text them, email them, chat with them on the Internet, etc, etc, etc.  However, is all of this instant satisfaction of reaching someone driving you crazy when it comes to your kids and their communication with their friends?  Is it time to put some restrictions or rules or something on them?  Should I place some old-school crackdown on how they are to communicate with each other?  I have talked to some of my other mom friends, and they seem to be facing the same issues of what we need to teach our kids.  So, here is my top 5 list of what we should teach our kids about "Communication Etiquette."

  1. Call once and be done.  If my child calls one of her friends, be it on her land line or (gulp, because my kids don't have one) cellphone, she should only call once.  If her friend (or parent) does not answer, calling repeatedly until someone does can be somewhat, well, irritating as all get out.  Teach your child that there may be a reason that they are not answering, maybe they aren't there, or maybe they looked at caller id and know that they can't talk while doing homework.  Maybe the friend that they are calling for isn't there and the parents are trying to put a younger sibling down for a nap and the incessant calling is disrupting their already fried patience.  Or, like I said, maybe they aren't home.  Leave a message and they will call back.
  2. Continuous texting with no response is not allowed.  If your child sends a text message to one of their friends and the friend does not respond immediately (because maybe they were not attached to their phone, they are kids, and were outside playing or weren't allowed to use their cellphone at that moment), tell your child not to keep texting their friend every 10 minutes until they respond.  What if they don't have an unlimited texting plan?  What if they are having family time?  What if you send your friend's mother over the edge with the constant texting and she throws the phone out of the window while driving down the highway?  Not that I would do that, I'm just using an example.
  3. Unless it is a homework emergency, calls should be stopped after a certain time put in place by the parent.  All children have a bedtime, but none of them are the same.  Do you want your child to be receiving calls all the way up until bedtime or do you want some down time?  Whatever your time frame is, let your child know that they cannot talk on the phone past a specific time and tell them to tell their friends that so that they are not calling all night long.
  4. Cellphones must be handed over and put in the parent's room at a specified time.  If your child is not allowed to talk on the phone after a certain time (this includes texting and social media), then they do not need their cell phone.  Putting the cell phone in your bedroom ensures that your child will not be using it later than allowed.  I taught high school for several years, and I was amazed at how many kids said that they were exhausted because they received text messages in the wee hours of the morning so they couldn't sleep.  Ridiculous, their parents were way too naive about cellphones and their misuse.
  5. All social media accounts will be monitored for content, parents will be friended, and parents will be allowed to "follow."  This includes all social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram.  I know I am probably leaving some out, but you get the point.  If children know that their parents are going to be keeping tabs on them, they are less likely to post words or pictures that they would not want their parents to see.  Good rule for kids to follow: if you wouldn't want your parents to see it, don't show it to your closest thousand friends.  I am not asking you to invade their privacy and read their diary, just know everything that they post on the Internet because that's not private anyway.  Do not be your kid's best friend, be your kid's parent.
Honorable Mention: Cellphones, telephones, or technology of any kind are not allowed at the table during meal time or during family time.

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