Encourage Good Manners Despite Technology’s Bad Influence

Technology is an integral part of our lives, and especially the lives of our youth. Most families have multiple devices – computers, laptops, tablets, phones, Fitbits, and more – and despite our best intentions, it can quickly seem like everyone is staring at a screen all the time. While all of this technology definitely can make our lives easier and more fun, there are some pitfalls that we need to be aware of and avoid. Technology appears to be reducing our culture’s social skills, particularly in our youth. For example, research has shown that just having a phone present on the table between two people having a discussion decreases feelings of empathy. As a parent, we need to combat this problem by reinforcing common courtesy.

Please, Thank You, and I’m Sorry

This may seem like preschool manners, but unfortunately there are a large number of teens who are not using the basic manners of saying “please” when asking for something, “thank you” when receiving something, and “I’m sorry” when doing something wrong. Some experts believe that having so much interaction with machines where we can make demands but not have to show courtesy has created a lack of enforced courtesy. Remind your teen to: 1) always use please when requesting anything, especially from an adult; 2) say thank you or write a thank you note when anyone has helped them or given them a gift; and 3) apologize whenever they have made a mistake.

Proper Phone Skills

Even though almost every American teen owns a mobile phone, our youth use texting, email, and social media to communicate significantly more than phone calls. As a result, many teens do not know proper phone etiquette. This can be a problem not only when they are answering your home phone with an annoyed, “hullo?” but more importantly when they begin seeking employment. Take the time to teach your teen these basic rules: 1) use a friendly tone with answering or making phone calls; 2) always introduce yourself first; and 3) when making a phone call, ask (with a please!) if you can speak with the person you are calling.

Conversation Skills

Let your teen know that you expect him or her to value face-to-face conversation over screen time. If guests are in your home and ask your teen a question while they are using their mobile device, explain that they should put the device down to talk to the person. Devices should never be brought to the dinner table because it is a time for conversation. Your teen should always give full attention to an adult who is speaking to him or her. Teach your teen to use these techniques when having a conversation in person: 1) make eye contact; 2) do not interrupt; 3) speak and listen respectfully; 4) do not roll eyes; 5) do not swear; and 6) show interest in others by asking them questions.

Final Thoughts…

The key to getting your teen to use good manners is:

  • Establish clear expectations. Your teen needs to know exactly what you are looking for in their behavior.
  • Explain the benefits your teen will experience throughout life by having good manners.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate your teen whenever he/she uses good manners.
  • Role model good manners in your daily life.
  • Enforce consequences when your teen is intentionally rude or disrespectful. If you can, avoid embarrassing your teen in front of others when a mistake is made. Talk about it privately. Be consistent in following through when your teen’s behavior does not meet your expressed expectations.

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