Smart 4-Hers know when to use their smartphones

Youth can practice cell phone etiquette in 4-H.

kids on cell phones

Learning when and where to use a cell phone is a great skill that helps prepare youth for the workforce. This skill can be practiced in many 4-H settings. Michigan 4-H recommends youth and volunteers think about these phone etiquette tips as they prepare for a new 4-H year.

According to research from USC’s School of Business, there are some common workplace habits with regards to smartphones, such as texting during a meeting, that many people find to be disrespectful or unprofessional. This can affect relationships with colleagues and work teams, as well as with your supervisor, which can ultimately affect your career path. Paying attention to your phone instead of the people around you shows a lack of respect, lack of attention, and lack of self and social awareness.

In 4-H, we have many opportunities to practice this important life skill. Here are some situations where it would be smart to put away your smartphone.

During 4-H meetings. Having a group discussion about ground rules is a great way to get everyone on the same page about something like cell phone use. Keep your ground rules posted as a reminder during meetings throughout the year. This is also a great time to practice active listening so that those around you feel heard.

When you have a guest speaker. Whether you are in a small group or a large auditorium, being a good audience member includes body language that shows the presenter you are listening.

When you are interacting with the public as the “face of 4-H”. This may include times when it is more obvious not to use your phone, such as when staffing an informational booth or giving a presentation, as well as other times when it may be harder to stay off your phone, such as during barn duty at the fair or when waiting for customers at a car wash fundraiser. Remember that the public will make opinions of the whole organization based on their interactions with you.

During interviews. From interviews with judges about your projects to interviews for scholarships or jobs, remember that having a phone with you will automatically make you look distracted. If you need to have it with you, keep it discreet and make sure it’s turned off. Remember that your interview starts when you arrive at the location, so a good first impression occurs even as you wait in the lobby.

Workshops or trainings. Similar to when you have a guest speaker, if you are in an educational session, it is respectful to turn off your phone.

Understanding how your behavior affects others is a piece of self-awareness; using this knowledge to improve your relationships is part of emotional intelligence. If you are tempted to pull out your phone due to boredom or other reasons, try flexing your creative muscles instead. What could you do to attract customers to your car wash? What questions can you come up with for a guest speaker? How could you make a positive impression on members of the general public walking through the fairgrounds?

You can show you have social awareness by understanding how your behavior affects others, and knowing you have power over your phone (it doesn’t have ultimate power over you). With cell phones such a demanding part of our society, it may seem hard to put it away for any length of time. All of these suggestions will be easier when you and your 4-H cohort make it a part of your culture. Be the change!

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives.

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