A New Era of Etiquette – Blog 3

In the past few years I have noted a relationship between digital devices and etiquette or lack there off. I am a people watcher and when I go out for dinner I am often surprised at the number of families and couples that are seemingly ignoring each other in favor of engaging with their digital devices. Are we losing the ability to communicate effectively with one another or just the ability to communicate face-to-face?

This inappropriate behavior can not only be observed at dinner, but is now visible in all venues in society. I find students ignoring one another during lunch and recess breaks, people walking down the street, heads down, showing no awareness of their surroundings, teachers are more caught up in checking their e-mail than in working with students. It appears as if age is not a barrier to poor manners. What we were taught in our youth seems to have lost the importance that it once had in society. Is this an new era of digital manners or has the technology changed so quickly that etiquette has not caught up?

So what do we need to expect from people who are using digital devices? Wade (2012) in an article on smartphone use suggests that these technological distractions are a part of our lives now and that we need to purposefully engage with those around us. These devices provide a mired of distractions which allows our focus to easily wane.  In an ABC News (2012) interview with Dr. Genevieve Bell (Anthropologist) and Anna Post (Emily Post Institute) on cell phone etiquette they identify that people are getting frustrated with inappropriate cell phone use. Anna Post states that 92% of people want cell phone users to have better etiquette. This shows that we are definitely recognizing the bad etiquette of others, but often do not see it in our own actions. The problem comes down to that fact that it is not so much that the technology is the problem, but how we are using it.

If manners do need to catch up, then who has the responsibility for teaching users? Teachers? Parents? Or are users responsible for their own learning? This is a situation where the school and community need to work together in order to help develop digital etiquette in our students and children. No matter who has the responsibility, I think that there needs to be a significant change in behavior.


 ABC News (Producer). (2011, February 25). Cell phone etiquette getting worse for Americans [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUP5kJPbS24&feature=related

 Wade, A. (2012, May 26). Parents suffering iGuilt over smartphones. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10808609

About pjstokes

I like just about all sports...mainly participating in them. I have also recently taken up photography as a hobby (the background pic is one of mine).
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5 Responses to A New Era of Etiquette – Blog 3

  1. Patti J says:

    How true! My own sons feel its abuse when I tell them cell phones are not allowed at the table. But they comply – so do I. We had a discussion just last week in a workshop we were presenting on challenging behaviors. One of the comments was about setting the expectation and then modeling and living it. A professor in a course I took this past summer on campus started the first day by stating that cell phones were to be turned off, put away and only looked at during scheduled breaks and lunches. She set the expectation and we all complied. I think this is what teachers need to do if students are using phones and other devices in ways not appropriate in class. We need to use devices as tools, not toys, and teach the rules for tools. If we set the bar low – everyone will reach it. If we set the bar higher – they will reach that too!

  2. Greg Luterbach says:

    Hi Pat

    I agree with Patti that expectations need to be set but I would not go as far as banning them in classes. When I’m at meetings I can be engaged, check out for 2 minutes to read my mail then re-engage. When I’m busy talking at a meeting and someone is checking their mail occasionally I know I need to work smarter to keep them engaged. When that same person never re-engages (assuming they were engaged at one point) then I know my message is not meeting their needs. Alternatively, maybe I need to have a 1:1 chat and see why they were disconnected throughout. I need to keep my audience otherwise I’ll lose them. The same goes for teachers. At certain times it is highly appropriate to say – devices down, heads up and lets discuss this. Rather than banning I say encourage them to use the devices for back channel conversations on the topic (like we do using Elluminate when we have synchronous sessions). Allow them to answer the clarifying questions that they have as discussions are underway.

    Below is a link to an interesting post I read last weekend when researching for our blog analysis task. 49% of people under 25 think texting while eating is acceptable. 24% of that same group think texting in the bathroom is fine. If you thought that was bad how about the 10% that say texting while having sex is okay. Now they’ve gone too far!


    As for banning the devices at the supper table… DEFINITELY!

    Greg Luterbach – EDER679.05

    • Pat Stokes says:

      I really enjoyed your reply, but I just can’t imagine that you would be able to multitask in one of those particular situations.


  3. Shane Vopicka says:

    Hello Pat,

    Thanks for the blog post. I agree totally with your comments about distraction and losing the one-on-one conversation piece. I went to a Calgary Flames game last year, sitting in some nice seats and you look around at people watching the game…not the case they are staring at their cell phones, ignore their dates and missing a chance to watch a great hockey game. Why do you think we have the distracted driving law in Alberta now and perhaps in the not so distant future it will be illegal to text and watch as already outlawed in some States. What’s next? What the bigger picture here? People need to be more responsible for their actions and we need to keep each other accountable for proper etiquette.
    Many districts have mandated curriculum for digital citizenship. The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has a website devoted to digital citizenship (http://www.cbe.ab.ca/learninginnovation/digitalsafety-digitalcitizenship.asp). How many parents, teachers or administrators have looked at it or incorporated it into their schools or classrooms. Parents feel schools are on the cutting edge and teaching their children how to use these devices, also not the case as many teachers are reluctant to allow them in the classroom because they do not understand how to use them. I agree we have a lot of work to do in the area. Thanks for the post.


  4. Pam Baji says:

    Hi Pat. I agree with much of what you say. In my first blog for this class, I talked about people experiencing events they are attending but choosing to video tape them. They are present at the event but choose to watch it through a small screen. It’s baffling to me as is much of what you refer to such as families sitting together, all glued to their device (drug??) of choice.
    However, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here a little bit, as much for my own purposes as anything as I wrestle with this new reality. I wonder how much of the distaste for this has to do with one’s age. I looked at the You Tube interview but not specifically at the study they were referring to so I’m going strictly on what I heard there. They say 92% are fed up with cell phone usage etiquette (but they also point out that we are all guilty of bad manners in technology usage) but I wonder what population they tapped into to get this statistic? If they surveyed a younger demographic, would the results be the same? Those who are now growing up with cell phones which are as important to them as the air they breathe, don’t know any difference so for them, what we see as inappropriate or rude may not be their reality. Our belief about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour is based on our beliefs but social norms change all the time. Just because some of us think it is offensive, does that make it so? Maybe it’s just an additional way of communicating in conjunction with face-to-face communication and is just as natural and normal as previous methods which came before and were likely seen in the same light as they were introduced.
    However, at the end of the day, I struggle with it too but I’m just trying not to be too set in my ways and to see if looking at the other side might help me to gain some insight.
    Thanks for your thought-provoking submission Pat.

    Pam Baji

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