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Phone & Skype: Manners & Etiquette

Having family scattered throughout the country and even abroad, we - as a family - have started to video-chat pretty regularly.  Having moved far from her, my eldest has also started chatting on the phone with her bestest friends, also pretty regularly.

Frequently, I will overhear the kid(s) in the other room, chatting with a friend or with family via Skype in the other room, then I will hear my daughter say, "oh wait a minute, my brother needs something," and she will then proceed to go, pick up her toddler brother, tend to his needs.  Under non-Skype circumstances, she would have had no problem letting her brother fuss or go on unattended, unnoticed for any number of minutes.  On Skype, though, the dynamic is different.

Same goes for the phone.  I will hear her sharing news about her first week of school, then: "Stop it!" and "Wait, I need to get something from my sister."

The examples are really endless.  If I were on the other end of the phone/screen, I might be mighty irritated at the lack of focus, all the distraction.  Can't we just have a conversation?  To be sure, there are a confluence of factors here.  First, the other family members not actively participating on the call are likely to be a bit more intrusive during this time, when the other is obviously occupied.  I'm not sure why that is, it just is.  Second, the one participating on the call might want to share every, single bit of detail of our lives in this household.  Perhaps that is the intent in engaging in other activities whilst on a call.

Talking on the phone (and, now on Skype) is another vehicle for our communication, for social interaction.  There must be some "etiquette", some expectations, some code of conduct that tells the person on the other side: "yes, you are important; yes, I do want to talk to you; and yes, I do want to give you undivided attention."

Perhaps, too, it speaks to our society at large and our shorter and shorter attention spans.  That macroscopic question aside, what I'd really love to hear is how your kids are on the phone or video calls.  Are they engaged, receptive, attentive?  Or, are they distracted and easily distractable, even annoyingly so?


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we deal with this a lot -- both in conversations with daddy in Kuwait and the oldest, lately, has been skyping with his friend who's spending several months in Denmark. (another related question: do you get your under-13 child his own skype account, even though it's against rules? we did... on mama's machine...)

we too have a problem, especially with dad, with maintaining attention. I think there really has been a cultural shift in attention spans that our kids don't even realize has occurred. I remember in high school spending hours on the phone with my friends and not even wanting to go to the bathroom -- pre-wireless phones of course -- because I couldn't pull myself away. now I have a kid who SAYS "brb" to his friend on skype (it cracked me up!)

I think that, unless our kids are talking to grandparents or someone who might be hurt (either emotionally or financially) by the short attention spans, we should just accept it as a function of their generation and let them work it out amongst their peers. I think it makes sense to tell them stories about our own experience as preteens/teens on the phone, and perhaps gently tell them that our friends would have been offended by such behavior, and they can decide if they think we were totally uptight, man, or if they too want to adopt attentiveness. after all -- unless they're talking to our parents -- eventually, we just have to let them create the culture they want to be a part of. with, of course, a mindful awareness of where they have come from.

My 6 year old has a hard time with Skype. She doesn't ever talk on the phone, and when we bring up grandma on Skype, she won't talk to her. She will hide behind me until either bribed or threatened to make herself seen. I feel so bad for grandma, who is so excited to see her only distant grandchild, 3000 miles away, who appears to want nothing to do with her, so I get mad. That makes the call fun, too. What my girl does like on Skype is when we can use the funny voices and images, like turning her into a superhero or giving her a funny hat. But it's hard to have a conversation when all of this activity is going on.

That all being said, last year was the best Chanuka yet, as we Skyped with grandma as we lit the candles each night, and the girl got to open a present in front of me and grandma and show it to us. The best was when she opened the pillow pet, sent by grandma, with grandma watching. Ok, that made it all worth it! :)

Hm, to me, the rudeness would be in ignoring the sibling who needs something in favor of the phone conversation. People already interupt their lives so much for phone calls and texts as it is, shouldn't the real life person get precedence?

I'm with Spottie! I think so much of the fun of Skype with relatives is that it _isn't_ a phone conversation but a little window into how you really live. So you can have this window open for 20 min...or an hour... or more, with your friend, and share that part of your home life. Running after the baby. Fixing dinner. When I was in high school I used to watch TV with my friends while on the phone, and go for hours without saying anything except, "Hang on, I need to go to the bathroom / get another snack / etc." and we cherished those times.

I guess it's also about expectations too though -- if the person on the other end was a client or someone I knew expected me to focus -- someone I had a different kind of relationship with -- yeah, I guess I would focus. Or I wouldn't skype with the little ones around!

partager cette partie de votre vie à la maison. Courir après le bébé. Fixation dîner. Quand j'étais au lycée j'avais l'habitude de regarder la télévision avec mes amis, tandis que sur le téléphone, et aller pendant des heures sans rien dire, sauf, "Attends, je besoin d'aller à la salle de bain / obtenir un autre snack / etc" et nous chérissait ces moments.

My child is just so bad with phone conversations... I just noticed this again the other day :) He thinks of it as a magical contrivience that lets him talk when he wants to and listen if he wants to- and hang up when he wants to. It's very self-focused... hard to be on the other end. OTOH, at least he GETS on the phone, I always hated to as a child.

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