The National AfterSchool Association is the leading voice of the afterschool profession dedicated to development, education, and care of children and youth during their out of school hours.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Staring at Phones

I enjoy hosting my friends to watch collegiate football games on my big screen TV. Normally, we benefit socially from these times together. But increasingly, all anyone seems interested in doing is staring at their phones. No one shows much interest in the games. We don’t engage in intelligent conversation. I’ve even observed several friends spending much of the time watching score highlights on their ‘smart’ phones.

This winter, my concerns about cell phone etiquette were further heightened while attending a conference on the East Coast. There, I observed conference attendees engaged in similar behavior – staring at their phones. Worse, they had paid money to come (likely appropriated from their program budget) supposedly to learn from live, experienced trainers (I was one of them). At least my friends’ visit to my home had been free.

Then, an historic cell phone courtesy violation occurred earlier in January when the New York Philharmonic was presenting a live performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. During the beautiful fourth movement, an audience member’s cellphone began ringing loudly. The recognizable iPhone marimba riff loudly filled Avery Fisher Hall, clearly discomforting the audience. 

What happened next is an exchange no afterschool presenter ever hopes to encounter during professional workshops or trainings.

Maestro Alan Gilbert halted the performance. He turned from his podium and asked that the offending noise be turned off. The offender was seated in the front row!
Following what reports categorized as shocking dialogue and an unforgettable moment in orchestral history, Gilbert apologized to the audience for the disruption, and was greeted with applause.

Before most concerts begin, an announcement is made requesting that cell phones be turned off. Similar announcements typically precede other events. We make them at professional conferences. Yet, too many people fail to comply.

Loud ringing is distracting and embarrassing. Some consider it rude. So is staring at phones while others speak.

We can do better. Hopefully, we can learn from the experience of others and avoid situations like that confronted the maestro. Let’s avoid the need to publically call out attendees at our gatherings who fail to comply with requests for common cell phone courtesy.

Better yet, let’s put our phones out of sight during trainings. Let’s stare at the speaker!  That simple act (and courtesy) will make everyone better, and smarter.

Paul G. Young, Ph.D.
President & CEO
National AfterSchool Association

No comments:

Post a Comment