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Mind Your (Mobile) Manners In Front of Your Kids

09/03/2014 05:18 EDT | Updated 11/03/2014 05:59 EST

"The invention of the teenager was a mistake. Once you identify a period of life in which people get to stay out late but don't have to pay taxes, naturally, no one wants to live any other way."

― Judith Martin

This quote, from Judith Martin, better known as "Miss Manners" exemplifies the best parts of living like a teenager. But when I was a teenager, which was after cave drawings but before the invention of the fax machine, I was never told by my parents to "Look up from that screen!". Simply because the only screens that existed were the ones that protected us from being entirely consumed by mosquitoes, given that I grew up in Winnipeg.

While manners simply never go out of fashion, social situations change with each generation. You should still never talk while you're eating, or lick your knife, and always say please and thank you, but "Mobile Manners" are something that my generation of parenting is having to enforce while never having had to adhere to it as a child, particularly as a teenager.

Reading texts while Mom is talking is the new blank expression. Furiously typing texts while Dad is disciplining is the new eye rolling. So how do we teach our kids what is socially acceptable in the world of smartphones, when we are treading through these landmines ourselves?

Until the passing of Texting and Driving legislation, many parents could be found talking, texting and being generally distracted, something that our young kids observed. I myself used to refer to traffic lights as BlackBerry Pitstops.

A recent PC mobile poll conducted by Leger Marketing shows that we are still not modeling perfect behavior in front of our children, even though smartphones have been around for quite a while, and common sense and legislation tell us to change. 22% of us have typed or texted while driving, 30% of us text or talk while walking, and 37 per cent of us have used our phones in the bathroom.

While using a phone in the bathroom isn't technically dangerous, it is of course extremely unhygienic... and more than a little off-putting. Texting and driving is extremely dangerous, and doing it in front of your teenager doubles the danger, as they see our behaviour as normal and potentially mimic it when they start driving. As much as they don't want to be like us, as we didn't want to be like our boring old parents, they develop their values and norms by watching us.

Take advantage of having a teen in the car to make them your Designated Texter or Talker if you need to communicate while on the road. But don't let them take it into the bathroom at the gas station...

That's just good manners.

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