Mobile Etiquette: What it Means to Kids and Parents

Last Saturday, I spoke at an Intel-sponsored High Tea and High Strategy event at the Mom 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, a conference for some of the most focused and engaged bloggers I’ve ever met. At the end of February, initial findings from Intel’s “Mobile Etiquette” survey were released, focusing on general statistics related to mobile manners of Americans across the nation. At the Mom 2.0 Summit, I shared a first look at findings from the survey that related specifically to how parents and children are using their mobile technology devices (laptops, netbooks, smart phones, tablets), and how it impacts their relationships.

The topic of mobile manners is one that we are confronted with at The Emily Post Institute on a daily basis. The rapid pace of new technology is evolving faster than new social norms for using it. Mobile devices connect us, but if they aren’t used appropriately can distract us from the people we are with. The findings from this “Mobile Etiquette” survey by Intel provide us with an opportunity to understand how people are using mobile technology devices, and how their behaviors impact others around them.

I think we can all agree that the premise of etiquette and how we socialize with one another is not a new concept. However, it seems parents and children are discovering that when it comes to using their mobile devices, what makes for good manners is not always clear. Join me below the fold for survey results and mobile manners tips for parents and kids.

A few key findings related to how parents and children use mobile technology:

  • Overall, it seems that we’re seeing younger and younger aged children with their own mobile technology devices these days. The Intel survey included responses from children 8-17 years of age, and 50 percent of the children that are just 8-12 years old reported they had at least 2 mobile technology devices.
  • And, we’re seeing that children are very connected to these devices. Children 8-12 years old reported spending approximately 2-3 hours per day using their mobile devices. And, one of the most surprising statistics (in my opinion) is that one-third of children report that they would rather go without their summer vacation than give up their mobile device for one month.
  • Children continue to look to their parents as examples. 94 percent of parents agree they must set a positive example if they expect their children to practice good mobile manners, but 59 percent of children have witnessed their parents commit common mobile infractions, including: use of a mobile device while driving (59 percent), at dinner (46 percent) and during a movie or concert (24 percent). It’s no wonder that nearly half of U.S. children (49 percent) say they don’t see anything wrong with using a technology device at the dinner table.
  • Ninety-four percent of parents believe it is important to establish ground rules in the home about the proper use of mobile devices; some parents are already doing so by prohibiting use of mobile devices in certain places like at school, or setting limitations on how the devices are used by their children, but those rules aren’t being set in overwhelming numbers – for example, less than half of the parents surveyed are setting general guidelines for use of mobile devices during family time.
  • When used effectively, mobile devices can better connect parents and children. According to the recent Intel survey, 70 percent of teenagers and 75 percent of parents believe that their mobile devices allow them to better connect with each other, more often.  That being said, there are still 50 percent of parents who feel guilty for using their Internet-enabled device when they feel they should be spending time with their children.

Top Tips for Children and Parents to Improve Their Mobile Manners (and for Parents to Say Goodbye to Guilt):

  1. Use technology to engage with your children. Ask them to give you a tour of their Facebook page and show you who their friends are. Your daughter is into American Idol? Look up the website together.
  2. Location, location, location: Designate when and where the computer should be used, and choose a location that is in a central spot so kids aren’t isolated when using it.
  3. Determine house rules. As a family, discuss ground rules for how you’ll each use—or not use—mobile devices. Talk about places like the dinner table and homework hours, and the car, restaurants, and special events. Parents, be willing to limit your behavior, too, such as, “Mom, no texting during my soccer games,” or, “Dad, no calls during family movie night.”
  4. Don’t feel guilty about using a “digital babysitter”: iPads instead of crayons at the restaurant, DVDs instead of “I Spy” games in the car, and smartphone apps instead of a book in the waiting area are all fine. Don’t feel guilty about allowing your kids these distractions, just set a time limit and participate with them when you can.
  5. Be a good role model. Parents, kids look to your example in all things, and how you use technology is no different. Hop off the phone when checking out at the grocery store and don’t text while driving.

Third Party Resources / Articles:

Survey Methodology:

The “Mobile Etiquette” survey was conducted online within the United States by Ipsos on behalf of Intel from Dec. 10, 2010 to Jan. 5, 2011 among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The margin of error for the total sample is ±2.2% at the 95% confidence level. The study included the following audiences: 286 parents of children ages 8-17 (margin of error +/- 5.8%) and 500 children ages 8-17 (margin of error +/- 4.4%).


  1. Laura

    Great post, Anna. That’s some really interesting stuff, especially the device vs. summer vacation statistic!

  2. Stephen Hinkle

    I think these are good tips. I wished people would have better mobile etiquette. Each household should determine their own rules and some basic general rules should be followed in public settings.

  3. I think it is really important to instil mobile phone etiquette. Nowadays nobody cares. I get annoyed when peoples phones go off in the cinema or when you are in a meeting. I do not allow any mobile phones at the dinner table that’s my personal policy.

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