Minding your p's and q's when texting: Depends on age

2:52 PM, Feb 11, 2013   |    comments
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by Cathy Payne, USA TODAY

More and more people pull out their smartphones or cellphones at meals, in meetings or in the classroom. But which habits with those mobile devices get a thumbs down?

A new survey finds that many Americans feel using the mobile devices in those settings is just inappropriate. But opinions on mobile device manners vary by age, according to the survey out Monday. Younger people tend to be more tolerant of cellphone use during meals, meetings and classes.

The Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and Bovitz Inc., a market research and strategy firm in Encino, Calif., conducted the nationwide survey of 989 Internet users. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.

"The purpose of this technology is to facilitate relationships," says Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future. "We need to find a balance to foster or facilitate communication, not to replace or inhibit it."

Among those surveyed:

62% said just having a mobile device on the table during a meal was inappropriate.
76% said texting during a meal was inappropriate.
84% said talking on a mobile device during a meal was not right.

Cole says age affects views because younger people who grew up with the technology have fully integrated it into their lives as opposed to their grandparents.

One of the biggest differences between age groups is that 50% of those ages 18 to 29 consider texting during a meal permissible, compared with 15% of those age 30 and older.

Thirty-three percent of those ages 18 to 29 consider texting during a meeting appropriate, compared with 17% of those age 30 and older.

"Millennials simply have different mindsets about the role of technology in their lives and determining if that technology is appropriate in social situations," Greg Bovitz, president of Bovitz Inc., says in a statement.

Smartphone users also tend to have more relaxed attitudes about cellphone use in such settings. For example, 25% of smartphone owners said it was appropriate to text during a meeting, compared with 11% of basic cellphone owners.

Cole says the next steps for research could include looking at how technology affects romantic relationships, especially regarding fidelity and parenting. "Do you punish kids by taking away technology?" he adds.

Anna Post, co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition, says the survey's findings are not surprising. "Etiquette is about, among other things, being respectful of those you are with," she says. "One of the ways that we show respect is by giving people our full attention."

Post, who was not involved in the center's survey, advises that people focus on those they are with during meals and meetings. You can set your phone to silent or vibrate or ask people if you can use your device during those situations, she adds.

"The good news is that this study shows we still care about putting the person we're with first," says Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post. "That I don't think will change. That is very ingrained in how we like to interact with others and how we like to be treated ourselves."

Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com

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