Cell Phone Guidelines

I sometimes commute to North Park University on the train. On the morning ride into the City, the train is quiet and everyone abides by the “keep it quiet” rule. On the ride home in the late afternoon, the guideline changes: You can talk. With one exception:

There are some cars that manage themselves as quiet. The “ssssssssshhhhhhhhh” can be heard if you even try to chat on a cell phone. (I don’t know what would happen if you didn’t “shush.”)

Question: If you could advise high school students and college students and adults how to use cell phones in public , what would be your top two rules/guidelines?

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  • I work with these age groups a lot and I’m not too far removed from the age group being in graduate school. I think the bigger concern is not really when to use it and not to use it, but also making sure that you are developing the ability to communicate in person. It is very easy to text, pm, etc… It is much harder to carry a conversation where you cannot just ignore the next text.

  • E.G.

    Best guideline I’ve ever seen:

    from http://www.slate.com/id/2248274/

    “If you’re in a situation where you’d excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, you should also excuse yourself before reaching for your phone. Otherwise, go ahead without asking. Either way, don’t play with your phone longer than you’d stay in the bathroom.”

  • Pat

    High school and college students? How about anyone? I would ask for no use in elevators. Very annoying to take the elevator up to my office having to listen to someone else’s conversation. I’d also probably ask that people lower their tone when discussiong certain issues. I can’t believe the number of times I’ve passed someone in the store and had to hear drama of someone’s life even in the one side of the conversation that I can hear.

  • rjs

    If you would feel awkward or lower your voice speaking with a live person next to you – don’t use your phone.

    If you are with a companion or interacting with another person (eg. a clerk in a store) E.G.’s link is a good suggestion – after all the people you are with deserve your attention.

    But I don’t see any difference in etiquette between a commuter speaking on a phone and a commuter speaking to a traveling companion. If you would tolerate two people carrying on a conversation in the seat behind you, or at the table next to you in a coffee shop, view a solo person and a phone with the same tolerance.

  • DRT

    I’m with the same as conversation concept with a real person.

    As an adult in corporate environment, there seems to be two rules. First is the same as carrying on a conversation with someone who happened to walk up to you rule.

    Second, is the recognition that the phone is necessarily a secondary communication source rule and that (unless you are waiting for an important phone call and you can excuse yourself for that), you implicitly make the statement that the person on the phone is more important that the people you are with. So answer it, subject to the first rule, and recognizing that you are making the second statement.

  • Barb

    I would agree with all the suggestions above–but it seems to me that many people just don’t “feel awkward” talking about anything in front of anybody.

  • Anna

    As a mother of teenagers, I announced that all texts received or sent at the dinner table would be read aloud.

    We had a couple of more than usually entertaining family dinners, but now my kids turn off their cell phones at the table.

    They almost never talk on the phone; it’s all pretty much texting.

  • Please don’t use it when checking out at a store. When in line fine but not when the cashier is checking you out.

  • JamesG.

    1. Value the conversations of those in your presence over those who are not. Nothing says “I’d rather be elsewhere” than constant, unnecessary phone/texting interruptions.

    2. If you must take the call and must speak up, move to a private space (i.e. leave the room, go to a less crowded corner, etc.) This is actually better for you as much as for them.

    Bonus: If you don’t want it on a billboard, don’t say it on a cellphone in public (same for twitter/fb statuses).