Is there such a thing as texting etiquette?

January 8, 2013 | Posted in: High School, Middle Years

My kids’ drive-thru request was simple: two shakes and an order of popcorn chicken.

“May I take your order?” the voice on the other side of the speaker asked.

I got through “two small vanilla” when the voice asked me to hold on please. Less than a half-minute later, the voice came back.

“Sorry, I had to wash my hands,” said the voice.

I finished my order and pulled around to the payment window. We waited as the teenage boy furiously typed on his cell phone.

“Maybe he had to wash his hands so he wouldn’t get his phone dirty,” my daughter remarked sarcastically, though he didn’t hear her.

The boy put the phone down, collected my money, then dashed off another text before handing over my change and telling me to have a good night.

As we drove to the next window to collect our order, I wondered aloud whether the fast food restaurant had any rules about texting on the job. “At least he was polite,” I said.

I had a somewhat similar experience shopping for a Christmas tree this year. The teen girl working the cash register alternated between doing her job and texting on her cell phone.

“Sixty dollars,” she told the man in front of me, then picked up her phone and texted as the man pulled out his credit card. She smiled as she took and swiped the card, handed it back to the man, texted, tore off the receipt, handed it and a pen to the man, texted, took the signed receipt and pen back, said “thank you have a nice day” and promptly sent another text as we stepped up to the window.

Talk about multitasking! I was flabbergasted. Thoughts of “when I had a job as a teen” swirled through my head. Yet she was so cheerful and polite, I was left speechless.

The good thing about these incidents was that they gave me an opportunity to discuss with my teenage daughters cell phone/texting manners and rules of conduct with regard to school and the workplace. Most schools have rules about cell phone use, as do most employers. My belief is that it is unacceptable to text during a class; not only are you missing out on the instruction, you are being rude and disrespectful to the teacher. And, if you are being paid to do a job, you should not be texting your friends. Period.

Cell phone-related manners were again a topic of conversation this week after we read about the contract Janell Burley Hofmann gave her 13-year-old son. The Cape Cod mom outlined 18 rules in the contract, which her son had to agree to in order to use his new iPhone. (You can read the story and rules here.)

There’s a lot to like about the rules – and rule number 11 in particular struck a chord as it related to our thoughts about cell phones and manners: Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

We’ll be using Hofmann’s rules to again have a conversation in our home about cell phone use and texting. To take from Hofmann, “It is my job to raise you into a well-rounded, healthy young adult who can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it.”


Karen Nerney has been a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service since 2011. Prior to that, she spent many years as a journalist in the Boston area. She is mom to two teenage daughters and an 8-year-old son, all of whom are about to get another earful on texting manners.

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