Tag Archives: Cell Phone

How Smartphones Can Lead to Better Parents

Over three years ago, I wrote a post about cell phone etiquette. At the time I wrote that, I wouldn’t have guessed that three years later, I’d be considering the possibility that smartphones could actually lead to better parents.

But that’s exactly what this post is about.

The stereotype goes that many parents will bring their children to the park (and/or some activity) and upon arriving, they shoo away their children only to peer down at their cell phone. Some folks do this while out to dinner with friends (even though they don’t have kids, see here). Many will cringe upon seeing parents sitting on the bench enwrapped in the goings on of their cell phone. Farhad Manjoo, however, points out how smartphones can actually make for more available parents [Emphasis Added]:

But we rarely consider how, by liberating us from the office, smartphones have greatly expanded the opportunity for certain kinds of workers to increase their involvement in their children’s lives. Because you can work from anywhere thanks to your phone, you can be present and at least partly attentive to your children in scenarios where, in the past, you’d have had to be totally absent. Even though my son had to yell for my attention once when I was fixed to my phone, if I didn’t have that phone, I would almost certainly not have been able to be with him that day — or at any one of numerous school events or extracurricular activities. I would have been in an office. And he would have been with a caretaker.

Stop and consider that for a moment: having a smartphone can actually make you more available as a parent. Now, this isn’t a commercial for smartphones, but it’s certainly something that should give you pause for consideration. I know it did for me when I read it. This idea put forth from Manjoo is exactly the kind of thing that I’m talking about when I say putting a new perspective on things. Someone who is so focused on how smartphones are bad for parents and how they keep parents from their children wouldn’t be able to see the possibility that for a small population, having a smartphone can actually allow a parent to be away from the office and with their children.

This idea isn’t meant to invalidate the idea that smartphones are changing the relationship we have with our children, but the idea that smartphones are allowing us to be with our children more is, to be hyperbolic for a moment, paradigm-altering. A key step to being a better parent is being able to be with your children. So, if smartphones can get us out of the office and next to our kids, isn’t that an important step?


There still might be some of you out there that unequivocally think we shouldn’t be on our phones when we’re with our kids and that’s okay, but I hope that you’ll at least consider (reflect, think about, ponder, etc.) the possibility that the opposite may be true. It’ll put you one step closer to defending against the confirmation bias.

Cell Phones and Driving: Do You Value Your Life?

A couple of days ago, I happened to be in the car when NPR’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show was playing. It just so happened that it was “Tech Tuesday,” and they were talking about new findings on distracted driving. Some of the findings would probably shock most people. For instance, would you have guessed that there is no (statistically) significant difference between talking on a cell phone with bluetooth and without bluetooth? I wouldn’t have. And, in fact, part of me thinks that the study maybe wasn’t designed optimally for testing the hypothesis, but I didn’t read the journal article.

One of the more interesting parts of the conversation was when one of the callers brought up the point about having cell phones automatically “lock” themselves when the car is in motion. One of the guests pointed out that this is already out there. She mentioned that there were apps that would “lock” the phone if the car is in motion. Then, Kojo brought up the point about passengers in the car — would they still be able to use their phones in the car? At this point, the guest then explained that getting around the “locked” phone is not too difficult.

After listening to this exchange, I realized that car safety (ala cell phones) is a choice. That is, it’s a choice by the driver. It’s probably not possible to completely legislate away a person’s ability to use their cell phone while driving (meaning: it likely wouldn’t hold up in court), so then it becomes a choice for driver. Does the driver want to increase their chances of causing an accident? Because that’s what happens when a driver decides to use their cell phone while driving. They’re increasing their chances of causing (or being in) an accident. To take this down a psychological tangent, it’s possible that they don’t value their life (as much as the next person) and so they’re willing to take this kind of risk.

As I got out of the car and began walking to my destination, my thoughts floated back to the 2009 book, Nudge (I think I’ve mentioned it on here before). I was trying to think of a way that we, as a society, could help nudge people to make better choices when behind the wheel. Is there some way we could nudge drivers away from using their cell phone?

When was the Last Time You Unplugged?

I’ve been in the midst of traveling a lot recently (), DC to Ottawa, Ottawa to Toronto, Toronto to Niagara Falls, back to Toronto, and now back to Ottawa (and in about a week), back to DC. In this time, especially when I was going from LA to DC, I have, somewhat out of necessity, had to “unplug” from my usual comings and goings on the internet. In this time, I have rediscovered how liberating it is to be away from technology.

Do you remember the last time you unplugged?

It might sound scary at first, turning off the blackberry, putting away the iPad, shunning your iPod, leaving the TV room, and just being with your “thoughts.” Or even just being quiet with yourself. I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but I would bet that there are a fair number of people who have tried this temporary “unplugged-ness” who, at first, were probably quite anxious about it. Maybe there were trepidations about what would happen to x, y, or z while they weren’t able to respond immediately. Eventually (at least that’s the hope), these types of people realize that the greater world (and even their more immediate world) still goes on without their interacting with it. Strange, huh?

In preparing to write this post, I did a few searches and found that there are nearly 6 million results for the search query: “.” An interesting result: .

Straight from the :

It’s an epidemic. It can strike anyone. It begins harmlessly enough… maybe with a cell phone, an online social network profile, or an IM. But before long, the electronic screens invade every corner of your life.

There’s a name for this tragic and extremely annoying condition: Screen Addiction.

But there is hope. Send an intervention to someone you care about! Help them take the first step towards recovery.

There’s also a and a form you can fill out to send to your friend with a number of drop-down menus, which, depending on your mood, can be quite comedic (or quite unfortunate, should the intended recipient actually be exhibiting some of the tendencies). Overall, I think the site could be quite handy for an “electronic” intervention (which may be the only way of reaching someone who has a fear of unplugging).

I think the most important thing to consider with regard to “unplugging” is moderation. Someone who spends 14 hours a day with their laptop or the blackberry glued to their thumbs is probably, at some point, going to need a day or two where this isn’t the case. I can’t imagine it’s very welcomed by the body (even if their ). In the end, you can’t force your friends to “unplug” themselves from their technology, but you can lead by example. As the title asks, “when was the last time you unplugged?”

Cell Phone Etiquette: Necessary Evil vs. “Old-Fashioned” Manners

Have you ever been out to dinner with people when suddenly you hear the (vibration) of a cell phone and then one of the people has their head buried in their phone? How about walking down the street and hearing someone talking to what looks like thin air? Or what about in the grocery store, seeing someone carrying on a conversation while deciding which box of breakfast bran to select? [] Cell phone are ubiquitous these days. In a , researchers polled over 3000 adults 18 or older and found that 85% owned a cell phone.

We know that cell phones aren’t going away anytime soon, especially because 96% the demographic between 18-29 in the survey above indicated that they had a cell phone. In doing some digging for this post, I found an talking about cell phone etiquette. As the technology has advanced, so to have the ways in which we connect with our mobile phones. To keep up with the necessary niceties, there’s an talking about some of the ‘okay’ and not-so-okay times to check your phone.

You’d think that since this issue has been around since the inception of cell phones that we’d eventually kick some of the dirty cell phone habits. This seems not to be the case. In a who polled over 2000 US adults from a nationally representative sample:

75% of US adults say mobile manners are worse now than in 2009.

The scary part about that survey to me is that 20% of people admitted to these same ‘bad manners,’ but will continue doing so because “everyone else is doing it.” The first thing I notice about this is that something is not right with the numbers. If 20% of the people are admitting to bad cell phone behavior, but 75% of the same respondents are saying that the behavior has gotten worse since 2009, ‘something’s gotta give.’ Either people are lying about their bad behavior (or maybe they don’t think when they do it that it’s bad). Given the plethora of articles written across the web about the ‘lack of cell phone etiquette’ (, , and ), I’m going to say that there is probably a little bit of at play.

I can see the reasoning and logic behind those that would advocate using their phones in social situations. In fact, this article I Will Check My Phone At Dinner And You Will Deal With It” from TechCrunch published in February has stirred quite the debate among the commenters. Even the title is a little inciting and at first glance, one may pre-suppose an air of bravado from the author. After reading it, the author makes the argument that supplementing dinner conversation with interesting facts from Wikipedia enhance the conversation rather than hinder it. Many of the comments that I read that received (high regards from other readers) seem to disagree.

As a counterpoint to this article, there was a survey done by of over 1000 Americans about their cell phone use. When asked “What is your level of tolerance when you encounter… someone interrupting a conversation to take a call?” 37% of respondents answered that was “very annoying.” There’s another interesting article (which also has ) that talks about people being so fed up with fellow cell phone users that they have turned to to keep people off of their phone.

I haven’t owned a cell phone for the last couple of years in part because I’ve been on the move (Canada, USA, and New Zealand) and in part because to keep a Canadian/American number through my travels abroad (and still be initiating/receiving “local” calls to/from Canada and the US). However, I have a feeling that I’ll be re-acquiring a cell phone in the near future and when I do, you can be sure that you won’t often find me interrupting in-person conversations for something happening on my phone.