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Cell Phone Etiquette

Susan is the last of 8 children, has raised 2 children, and has spent 26 years teaching high school kids. She grew up with a strong mother.


A Time in Our Not So Long Ago Past

I am so glad I grew up in an atmosphere without cell phones.

I am glad that as a teenager, the only expectation was that I be where I was supposed to be and be home by my curfew.

I didn’t have to worry about getting a call or text from my mom asking me what I was doing or who I was with.

What an aggravation that would have been.

A cell phone would have interrupted my time with my friends like a cold bucket of water being thrown on us at the height of our fun and silliness.

Today, it seems kids do not know how to function without their cell phones - for that matter, neither do adults.

Cell phones are a wonderful tool to have, but they also interfere, not only in our lives, but in the lives of those who are around us.

Some common sense rules of etiquette need to be applied and taught to our kids.


Friend Communications with the Cell Phone

I remember going to school events, and my mother would tell me to call her when it was time to be picked up. We would all line up at the pay phone, put our dime in and call our parents to pick us up. While we waited, we would stand around and talk and visit and plan our next outing. Our parents would show up one at a time, and we would leave. Now, before the school event is even over, kids can text or call for their parents to pick them up. The parents' cars are already lined up when the event ends. That is a nice feature of the cell phone, but patience has flown out the window with our kids and us. "Be at this point at this time and don't be late."

What about when kids are spending time hanging out together? They are being bombarded with texts, and they interrupt what they are doing to respond to the text. Sometimes kids are more into their texting with people they are not with than they are appreciating the time with the people they are with at the time. It is rude and annoying. Feelings get hurt and the one doing the texting may or may not know the effect it is having.

How about adults? Have you ever set a lunch date with a friend and have the friend either text or answer the phone several times during the lunch? Are we really that much more busy than our parents? We need to put the phones on silent, let those who need to know where we are, and enjoy our time with our friend, colleague, date, grandparent, etc.

Many times people don't care. They are addicted to texting and the constant stream of communication. For some it is like a status of popularity; little do they realize that the person they are with are not impressed by being ignored.


Family Communications with the Cell Phone

What about when we get home? How many people text with their kids at home simply because they are outside or in a different part of the house? How many times do we go somewhere and get a text from one of our kids, “I’m bored. Let’s go”? The face-to-face contact with our kids is being replaced by the cell phone. It is easy for our kids to express their feelings that would be considered rude if spoken out loud in the company of others. Do we allow it? Do we allow the interruption of what is a nice social atmosphere because we have a bored kid texting us? What signal are we giving our children if we allow this “quiet, rude behavior”? We need to put our cell phones away when we are in a social situation, and our children should be taught it is not acceptable. This will be a difficult rule to enforce because society encourages it. Texting should not replace face-to-face contact with others, whether it is good or bad. People and kids need to quit hiding behind their phones and take care of things on their own.

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Another issue with cell phones and family communications is that many people have gotten rid of their land lines. It is understandable to cut down on the costs. Many of us still have a land line, but it hardly ever rings because people call our cell phones. Parents have no idea who is calling their kids, and we are missing out on talking to people we know and love. Back when we only had land line phones, whoever picked up the phone had a chance to visit with the person calling then could pass the phone off to the person the call was meant for. Now, I hardly ever get to talk to my husband’s side of the family or he mine because they call our cell phones. While some might invite these “missed interactions,” I miss that close family connection that was simply cured by a quick, “Hi, how are you?” then passing the phone off. This is an etiquette that is slowly pushing families apart. Maybe we should start answering each others’ phones at home. We do need to know who are kids are talking to, and we want them to know who their other family members are.

I Wish American Teachers Could Do This... It's Not So Crazy...

Cell Phones in the Classroom

As a teacher, I understand why students have cell phones at school. The more frequent occurence of school shootings have created a fear that we cannot shake; therefore, students have cell phones. I don’t always like it, though. It would be great if they just carried their cell phones, but kids are good when it comes to texting without the teacher knowing. They can text while the phone is still in their pocket or purse, without even looking at it. Teachers in most schools can take the phones and keep them until the end of the day, but kids love to take advantage at the end of the day and pull their phones out to text. They feel triumphant when the bell rings and they are able to take their phones back.

Students can take pictures with their phones, record with their phones, and cheat with their phones. These violations at school cause major problems for the student and the school. Parents text their kids while they are in class. What is the kid supposed to do? Ignore the parent or get the phone taken away by the teacher who only knows the kid is texting during class? It might make it easier for the kid, the parent, the teacher, and the school if the parent did not text the student at school. Schools and parents need to work together to make sure students are not using their phones during class time. If there is an emergency, parents need to call the school.

Cell Phones in Public

It is not just bad social etiquette for family and friends to use cell phones at inappropriate times. The general public has become more inconsiderate with their cell phones. People talk in loud, irritating voices on their phones in public – imagine being stuck in a small area like a restaurant, bus, subway, or doctor’s waiting room having to listen to some boisterous, one-sided conversation. Or how about that glaring cell phone screen in a movie theatre that is glowing and distracting others? Most of us don’t have to imagine because we have experienced it.

How many of us have been guilty of it? If so, stop it. You are being rude. An emergency is one thing, but when you start holding up the line while buying groceries, you are taking up other peoples’ time. When you are inconsiderate enough to have a cell phone conversation in some public areas, you are torturing a captive audience. When you are talking on your phone in a restaurant, you are not only being rude to those you are with, but you are ruining the quiet meal of those around you. When you are in a dark theatre, turn your phone off or leave the theatre so those who spent money to be there can enjoy it. As a society, we must consider how we want to be treated and try to do the same for others. Put the cell phones away.


Cell Phone Distractions

Then there are times the cell phone is forever by my side, and I get a phone call when I don’t want to be reached by anyone. “Leave me alone!” I want to scream. I know, I could simply ignore it, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do that unless it is a long distance unknown number, probably from a telemarketer. We cannot even get away from those pesky calls when we have our cell phones. With kids and elderly family members, I don’t feel I can keep my phone on silent all the time. And when we do place them on silent, how many times do we check them?


Bottom Line: Follow Common Sense Rules of Courtesy

  1. Teach your kids to speak to you and others for the face-to-face communications they will need to use in the real world. No more texting each other when you are in the same house.
  2. When at home, answer each others’ cell phones so you can communicate with loved ones and keep up with whom your kids are talking to.
  3. Make sure you do not text your kids while they are in school or at work. It is an interruption and a disruption to the whole environment. Plus, students will use it as an excuse to text friends or even text answers to “help out” a friend.
  4. Keep you phones handy in public, but use them as little as possible. Remember, other peoples’ time is important.
  5. Don’t ruin an evening for others at a restaurant or theatre by talking on your cell phone or texting. People did not plan an evening or did not pay to listen to your one sided conversation or to watch the glow of your phone. These are real mood killers.
  6. Be considerate to yourself. If it is important, you will see a voice mail or message pop up.
  7. Remember, time is something we cannot get back: family time, friend time, work time, and alone time. All are important factors to keeping us balanced. Do not allow your cell phone to take away these important times.

© 2012 Susan Holland


Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on May 28, 2012:

Kevin, that is too funny, but kinda sad, too!! My kids only know what a rotary phone is because their grandma had one (an only one phone in the house). I guess cell phones have spoiled all of us. :-)

Thanks for dropping by!

KevinMillican from Fort Smith, AR on May 28, 2012:

We have one pay phone in this itty bitty town I live in. I showed it to my son and he asked, "What's that Dad?" I told him it was a pay phone. He then asked "How do you use it?"

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on April 19, 2012:

Jama, all I can say is BRAVO!! Your comment hit all the nails on the head. I have thought the same thing about someone, "Sorry, but you are not that important." Before we know it, there will be college courses teaching cell phone etiquette. I fight it everyday in the classroom.

Thank you for dropping by and the votes! :-)

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on April 19, 2012:

Bravo to Anamika for getting up and walking out when the guy went off to "attend to" a cell call. But I wouldn't have left the jerk a note. Let him wonder.

I can remember when the internet became common, the naysayers said it would be the ruin of familial and personal communication. Ha! I don't think cell phones would be such a problem if the ability to text didn't exist. If cells could only be used for **talking** (what a concept!), at least others in the room would know...and hear what was being said. Like it used to be, even after hardwired landlines became passe and cordless phones became the norm.

Personally, when I see someone with a cell glued to their ear or their thumbs going 90 miles an hour, I want to tell 'em: "If you were REALLY as important as you think you are, you wouldn't be standing in this line" (or doing whatever they're doing).

Voted up, useful and awesome! ;D

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 14, 2012:

Agus, I think you are making a great rule with a "no cell phones" rule for a certain period of time at home so you can have some quality family time. My rule is no cell phones at the table when we should be eating and sharing our day.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 14, 2012:

Kelly, I am glad you brought up the issue of cell signals messing with equipment. I agree, we should all respect those signs because there is a reason they are placed there. It comes down to safety at this point, and we need to be more considerate.

Thanks for dropping by!

agusfanani from Indonesia on March 14, 2012:

I have the same concern that cellphone has changed people's behavior. Now the role of family is important in deterring this and we try to spare particular time after we all get home from school and work not to touch our cellphones unless for an emergency /important call.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 10, 2012:

Oh I missed this! You hit on some Intersting points! I do let my kids have cellphones - but only the middle school girl takes hers to school - in case she needs to ask me for anything special:)) I have often wondered how we ever survived with out one when we were kids! Lol

Also - in a docs office/dentist/sleep lab /airplane - people! There are signs that say turn it off....why?? Because medical equipment operates at the same band width as the phones and they interfere with medical equipment! I tried to test a theory once that cell phones do change our brain waves - i never got to test it fully because the cell phone and polygraph didn't like each other:) each time I got close enough to see my EEG activity the cell phone would shut off! But - I could see the activity did distort brain waves! Lol

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 08, 2012:

I know the feeling, BreakfastPop! LOL I'M FREE!!!

breakfastpop on March 08, 2012:

Some of my happiest moments are when I leave my cell phone at home.

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 07, 2012:

Thanks, Teach! That's a great idea! A booklet on cell phone etiquette to go home with each phone!!

Thanks for dropping by and the vote! :-)

Dianna Mendez on March 07, 2012:

Cell phones are wonderful and keep us informed and connected but they need to sell them with mandatory classes on proper phone use in public. Love your videos and they get the message across with good humor. Your suggestions are all helpful and if followed will make our public outings more tolerable. Voted up.

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 07, 2012:

KS, I agree. PDX should have gotten an award for saving other people's time.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 07, 2012:

I know, Hoteltravel. When I am in a social situation and several people or even one person is texting rather than being engaged in conversation with the people who are there, I feel like saying, "Well, I guess I will go. I can see you have your own personal party going on." It is just rude. A text or two is one thing, but checking your phone every 30 seconds or ignoring the others around you while you text is just rude.

Thanks for dropping by and voting. :-)

Kimberly Schimmel from North Carolina, USA on March 07, 2012:

Subway should have promoted you for putting a rude customer in their place. Unfortunately, having worked retail myself, I realize they go by that stupid "customer is always right" garbage. Well, if the customer is rude, they are wrong--especially when they are causing a delay for the polite customers.

hoteltravel from Thailand on March 06, 2012:

What irritates me the most about cell phones is that it makes people ignore those who are with them in person. After the advent of smart phones, the problem is getting worse. Recently, we had a small party with a couple of friends. The entire time, I was sitting watching others fiddling with their phones - talking, texting, chatting online, posting pictures on Facebook and even playing games. I dread attending such parties after this episode. Voted up.

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Oh, I understand, Justin!! I'm proud of you! :-)

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on March 06, 2012:

oh, i wasn't fired for keeping the line moving... i was fired for making this customer know they were being a douche.

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Hi Angela! I have given my kids lecture after lecture. I hope they are not the ones being annoying in public. We have a "no cell phone at the table" rule. They have survived. ;-)

Thanks so much for dropping by!

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Thanks, Marissa! I have had kids come up to me to tell me the same thing, "My mom/boss is calling. May I go out in the hall to take it?" Me: "Show me." Sometimes I will let them take it if I know something is going on. Most times, Me: "Go sit down. They'll call back." LOL

I do not get going on a date or being in a social setting with others and texting... I guess my age is showing. LOL

Thanks for dropping by, voting, and sharing!! :-)

angela p from Richmond, Virginia on March 06, 2012:

These are such great tips. I get so annoyed in public with people on their cell phones in restaurants and even in the movies. I want my children to have a phone in case of emergency but not to distract them from important things like school, real conversations with friends etc. Great hub.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on March 06, 2012:

sholland10 - Susan, EXCELLENT message. I am growing more annoyed by the excessive use of cell phones during inappropriate times. I'm seeing many young couples on a date and both of them have their heads dug into their own phones - my husband teases, I think they are texting each other LOL.

The Japanese teacher on the video is a hoot! I would LOVE to do that. Cell phones are becoming a persistent problem in the classroom. I'm even having students go up to me in class and say, it's my mom can I answer it? UNBELIEVABLE!

Great comment thread here - interesting stories.

Thanks for the great hub. Definitely an important message that deserves to be acknowledged. Voted up and sharing.

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Thanks, Ruchira! I think with cell phones, we are all probably "works in progress." :-)

Thanks for dropping by, voting, and sharing! :-)

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Debbie, we only had one phone, too. I can't remember how many times I was in trouble for the line being busy when my grandma or sisters would try to call. Sometimes it was that silly, "You say goodbye." "No, you say goodbye." "No you." "You." LOL Isn't that annoying??? Now, I can't imagine doing that in public, but I have heard it. LOL

Thanks for dropping by and the vote! :-)

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Cindy, that is too funny. At least he is only annoying you. LOL Since I teach and have a no cell phone rule (that is constantly broken), I have threatened my family about calling or texting me while I am doing anything school-related. I think I might have scared a few. LOL

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

Ruchira from United States on March 06, 2012:

Such basic ethics but many of us don't follow them. Good tips, Susan :)

Voted up and sharing!

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Bravo, Animika!! I hope it was an important meeting and that he learned a life lesson!!

Thanks for sharing that there can be consequences! :-)

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on March 06, 2012:

i remember those days no cell phones we only had one phone in the house.. I knew when I had to be home.. I didn't needed to be called I made sure I went by the rules. technology is good in one way and a lot of fun but then it's a pain too.. LOl

love your hub.

voted up


Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 06, 2012:

An excellent article Susan and I completely identify with your message. At least in Guernsey doctor's waiting rooms tend to have signs insisting mobile phones are switched off which I like. I do however have a problem with my Hubby who will text me with absolutely pointless texts when he is at work and I am at home, or he is at home and I am at my Mum's. These texts consist of short questions or statements like "what r u up 2?" or "boring in'it?", "R u going to ur Mum's tonight?" and other such pointless texts. I want to say "go away I am busy" but of course I don't usually. I just don't get why he wastes his time and credit sending such meaningless and unnecessary texts. Probably explains why he spends about £10 a week on his phone bill, and my phone bill is about £10 every 6 weeks!!!

Anamika S Jain from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on March 06, 2012:

Wonderful Hub! Cellphones can be quite annoying. There was this Guy who tried to get an appointment with me for months and I met him at a Restaurant. As we were talking he got a call and went out to attend saying, 'one minute' and did not return for 15 minutes. I got annoyed and slipped away leaving a note, 'My time is precious, I cannot waste it waiting'. He has not succeeded in getting another appointment from me so far. Voted up and liked on facebook.

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Thanks, Lisa! As ALocsin said above, I don't think society has caught up with proper "use" of technology either. I know when I go to NYC to see a Broadway show, I love the little diddies that one of the characters sing before the show begins. Inevitably, someone "more important" than me and the money I spent has a phone call. You can see everyone looking aggravated. I put it on silent and put it in my bag, or if I am worried about family or an issue, I put it on vibrate and leave it face down so I can feel it and the light won't go on to blind everyone in a dark theater. So frustrating...

Thanks for the votes and shares!! :-)

Liz Rayen from California on March 06, 2012:

Wonderful wealthof information Susan. It's just being respectful and considerate of the time, the place and who you are with. Being a theatre director, my biggest pet peeve are those who will not turn off their cells for a performance. I even go as far as to create a song or diddy for the characters in my show to sing prior to curtain. Then 10 minutes in.. someone's cell phones rings.. did they NOT listen to the song?!?!? haha VOted up and shared!!!!!!!!!

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

OH MY GOSH, Justin, you got fired for keeping the line going at Subway?? I love Subway, except for the lines. What audacity this person had to shoosh you with a line of people waiting. That is just wrong! I am sorry you lost your job.

Thanks for dropping by!

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on March 06, 2012:

susan, i couldn't agree more. i get most irritated by folks ont hheir cell ohone while in loine at a restauarant or at a grocery store. I worked at subway for awhile and, with a line out the door, i had a customer on their phone, at the front of the line "shoosh me" and give me the "wait a minute finger" to finish their phone call, which was unrelated to ordering food. When I helped the customer behind them first, the cell phone customer got irate. Needless to say, I that was my last day at subway...

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Racks, yes, we are fortunate to have the technology, and you are right about deciding how we use them in particular situations.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

LH, I think researchers could be right about it being a disease that alters the brain.

And, yes, GRRRR!! I AGREE! :-)

Thanks for dropping by!

racksjackson from New York on March 06, 2012:

Every technology has some plus and negative point but you have to decide your criteria when cell phones keep in silent mode or not .It is totally depends upon you .

Thanks for sharing Cell Phone Etiquette.

Lyndon Henry from Central Texas on March 06, 2012:


Thanks for a very relevant and timely article. I've voted this Up and Interesting.

The cellphone-textphone mania has unleashed a disease. Some researchers even offer evidence it's starting to alter the brains of the younger generation.

Used to be, the biggest annoyance was the person carrying on a loud cell conversation within earshot. Now it's the person you're supposedly socializing with who gets a call or a text and diverts himself/herself to focus on that — you're lower priority. Grrr...

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Thanks, Cindy. I understand what you are saying, and there are exceptions, but don't you miss the old land line only days when all the calls and texts are coming in? LOL I do! My kids text. I text, too, but I am slow and find it very tedious if it involves an explanation. I say, "This is a phone call, not a text, subject." All who text me know what that means - "I can't text as fast as you so call me!!" LOL Yes, cell phones have changed our lives.

Thanks for dropping by!

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Thanks, Tsmog. Cell phones are a blessing and a curse all rolled up into one. I love my iPhone, but I don't want to be a pain with it when I am with other people or out in public. I guess we are just all groovin' on the same cosmic wave link today. LOL

Thanks for dropping by!

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

ALocsin, I think you are right. Society needs to catch up with technology. We get our new "toys" and have to play with them. LOL I have been guilty of some of the infractions listed above, such as taking a phone call when walking down the sidewalk. We just need to have more situational awareness and consideration when using our cell phones.

Thanks for dropping by, voting, and sharing. :-)

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on March 06, 2012:

This is a great hub Susan! My husband has to answer his phone because of the business we are in and I hate it that we are rarely able to finish a conversation without being interrupted. It is even worse when I am with someone who does not have to answer. And I have friends who would rather text than call - I would much rather hear their voice and the conversation would happen so much quicker without both of use having to fumble with the typing. Cell phones have certainly changed our lives.

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on March 06, 2012:

Awesome and weird for sure sholland10. A great read and packed with a a powerful punch on phone etiquette. You have presented a novel approach examining phone etiquette offering thoughts to ponder. I say weird because I just commented to alocsin about a phone etiquette article. The wizardry of the cosmos provided that when I bounced back home discovering this awesome article.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 06, 2012:

I think the problem with cellphone use is that the technology is moving so fast that social rules have yet to catch up with it. Your list of common-sense rules is a great way to end the hub. Voting this Up and Useful. Thanks for SHARING.

Susan Holland (author) from Southwest Missouri on March 06, 2012:

Thanks, Victoria! I know, I hate it when I am trying to talk to someone and they put their finger up to motion for me to hold on while they take a call or text... REALLY??? I hope people take this advice, too.

Thanks so much for dropping by!! :-)

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 06, 2012:

Awesome, Susan! My biggest peeve is when people answer their phone when they're out with me--or even at home with me! Ignore it, I say! I am the one who is there. Anyway, you are right on; I think you captured everything. Well written and presented material. I just hope that someone takes your advice to heart! :-)

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