You know your kids are like little sponges soaking up everything around them. This can be hopelessly adorable sometimes. Other times, it can be irritating or even a little scary. The problem with teaching kids about appropriate behavior is that they pay a lot more attention to what you do than to what you teach. Any teen watching your car wobble down the road while you adjust your seat or dash-mounted GPS might be inclined to think distracted driving is only natural, and that texting or chatting on his handheld cell phone while driving may be OK. This isn't to say that the only way to teach your children responsible driving is to keep a white knuckled grip on the steering wheel at all times, but know that your actions are being observed -- whether you're behaving like a sensible grownup or not.
Using technology safely isn't the only problem. The electronic age has created whole new categories of rudeness that mannerly folks just haven't adopted hard and fast rules about yet. Imagine standing in an elevator with a stranger. That person asks a question, and just as you open your mouth to answer politely, he turns and you discover he's talking on a cell phone. Ever happened to you? Beyond feeling embarrassed and maybe a little irritated, don't you get the sense there should be some social rule that protects you from having to listen in on private cell phone conversations conducted in public places? What about the guy who blasts the bass on his stereo so high the music undulates down the street like a controlled earthquake, or the nitwit who forgets to turn his phone off before entering the theater?
The rules governing polite tech behavior may lag behind the technology itself, but that's the time when good manners and circumspection should step in to rule the day, especially in front of the kids. For example, you may realize that grabbing the remote control and channel surfing while others are trying to watch the television is a no-no, but your teen may decide it's perfectly fine after watching your blithe disregard for everyone else in the room. When he gets older, you may find yourself wrestling with him for control of the remote on a regular basis -- and he may end up bigger than you.
On the next page, let's take a look at some more ways parents (and others) are teaching kids the wrong lessons when it comes to technology and good manners.