Teacher troubled by electronic devices at a school concert

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  May 10, 2011 06:00 AM

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At a band concert for students in grades 4-6, a family sat in front of me. During the concert, the mother showed her son (who looked to be about 3 years old) a video on their Ipod touch with the sound turned on. The father handed his daughter his cell phone with a game turned on. The little girl (about 8 years old) played the game through the national anthem and then entire concert. I found both behaviors to be really distracting to my enjoyment of the concert and also very rude to the kids who worked so hard to prepare.

What could I have said at the intermission? Is it really acceptable to allow concert attendees to occupy themselves on cell phones, especially when it is distracting and obvious to the other attendees?

From: Concerned teacher, Oxford, MA

________________________________________

Dear Concerned Teacher,

This sure is a sad commentary on our times, isn't it? This behavior is troubling on so many levels: the lack of respect it shows to others in the audience and to the performers (including, presumably, a sib), as well as the fact that the parents presumably assume their kids would have no patience or tolerance for the concert. If ever there was a self-fulfilling prophesy in the making..... What's the worst that could happen? They'd squirm a bit? Need to sit on mom or dad's lap? How else will they ever build up the muscle for attending performance events?

No, I wouldn't have said anything to them at the time unless you have a personal relationship with them and could have used humor in your approach. In the moment, the best you could have done was to move.

But you're not as powerless as you think. I suggest talking to your principal or to the PTO about establishing a policy of no personal electronic devices on school grounds or at school events for children or parents.

Other ideas?

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23 comments so far...
  1. Banning electronic devices is not the answer. At my kids' concert, half of the parents were using their cellphones to take pictures and/or video of their children. Also, since our school schedules concerts in the middle of the day, parents need to be able to receive urgent work phone calls.

    I do think it's ridiculous to be using those devices to entertain children at a concert, but banning them? Really? Why not just nicely ask people to put them away if they aren't using them to film?

    Posted by akmom May 10, 11 06:48 AM
  1. I agree whole-heartedly about the self-fullfilling prophecy with the way these parents are bringing up their children but I must disagree about not saying anything to them.

    While I would have loved to tell them to turn the devices of entirely and instruct the parents on proper behavior at such a public event - which undoubtedly would lead to a rather loud argument - I would have actually requested that they turn off the volume on the devices.

    As scared as we all are these days of offending a possible psychopath, I would HOPE that the other surrounding audience members would have backed up the writer in that they also were there to listen to the children on stage.

    I wish modern parents would learn what parents of the past knew - the earlier you start teaching children, the easier it is to get a desired result later on. REGARDLESS of if it is education or behavior!!!!

    I see so many children that can tell you the "square root as well as the cube of pi" at three years old (kidding) but can't sit still at ten years old because they "didn't want to upset Little Johnny or hurt Little Janey's self-esteem" by disciplining them. And then the parents have the nerve to complain how stressful their lives are because their kids "don't respect them"!

    I hate the phrase but...... "WELL, DUUUUUUH!!!!" A little bit too late NOW don't you think?

    Posted by meffaboy322 May 10, 11 07:10 AM
  1. I am a parent of a daughter who will be three in August.

    I think that the behavior of the parents who allowed the siblings to watch videos/play games at the concert completely unacceptable. How are these kids going to ever learn to pay attention to something or to show respect for what others are doing or saying.

    Last night, we went out to dinner. Across the restaurant there was a kid (my guess about 3.5 yrs old) who had a portable DVD player on the table and was watching a cartoon the whole time. My daughter asked me a few times why the kid was watching TV at the table. i had no answer for her other than that the boy didn't know how eat like a big boy.

    To the letter writer, there is nothing that you could have said. If the volume was dstracting I might have asked the parents to turn it down so that it you could hear the performance. As I said, I think it was unacceptable for the kids to not be paying attention to the performance, but it is not your place to tell the parents how to parent.

    Posted by Jcon May 10, 11 10:08 AM
  1. A lot of adults today have never been to a formal concert and don't know how to behave themselves. I don't know how they're going to teach their kids how to behave. It is completely appropriate to say something during the earliest possible break about how rude and disrespectful it is to the children who have worked so hard all year preparing.

    AKMOM, I certainly hope you're at least keeping that ringer turned off and planning to step outside of the auditorium in the event you get an "urgent work phone call." But you're still being rude (and teaching your kids to be rude) because unless you're a doctor or something there really isn't anything that can't wait.

    Posted by geocool May 10, 11 10:38 AM
  1. I am one of the moms whose child is using a personal electronic device at dinner or at a concert with the volume on low. My child will not sit still and focus on his sister's concert. He is also Autistic. He does not wear a sign that says, "I have special needs" and maybe, just maybe, the children you saw have special needs as well.

    If the volume was too loud, you can certainly ask that they be lowered but I don't think judging a family by their use of electronic devices is necessary.

    Posted by 2Typical1AutisticMom May 10, 11 11:38 AM
  1. My mother use to attend all my soccer games and concerts. She'd read a book during the games. I didn't mind, that she was physically there was the important thing.

    Provided the distraction is quiet, I honestly don't have a problem with it. And it doesn't matter if the distraction is electronic or paper.

    Posted by Michael May 10, 11 12:31 PM
  1. geocool: I wholeheartedly agree. I'm a responder and on call 24/7, but there is only one number that would come up that would require my answer during such an event - and if I miss it, I have the other responders in my office to cover the need. So leaving the phone off for an hour even in my case is acceptable. I can't imagine what someone who works in non-response career fields could consider so dire that they would leave their child's concert to tend to.

    And my phone ringers (personal and business) are ALWAYS on vibrate. I hate the ringing of phones around me. It's jarring and annoying and most importantly, especially in public spaces, rude.

    As for entertaining kids like this, I have seen too much of it and it's tragic. Kids need to learn both patience and how to amuse themselves. My daughter doesn't get TV at dinner, no matter where we are. She doesn't get a portable DVD player in the car - instead, we talk about what she sees, we sing, we listen to music...and on long trips, she plays with her travel drawing desk or "reads" books. Or even naps!

    I probably would have said something at least regarding the volume of the devices. It seems as though the parents were saying, "We're only here out of obligation, not because we're actually interested in seeing what these kids have worked so hard to do," and that's just rude.

    Posted by Phe May 10, 11 12:37 PM
  1. The fact that it was an electronic device is a red herring. Anything noisy does not belong there. Yes, they should have brought something quieter. But if the three year old kid squirmed, or heaven forbid made a peep or accidentally kicked the seat back of the person in front of them, someone else would be writing in about the clueless parents who ruined the performance by forcing a kid who's too small to sit through the whole thing to be there without bringing something to occupy him.

    Posted by di May 10, 11 12:50 PM
  1. I would have talked to them if the volume bothered me.

    The blue screen of devices bothers me too - I had $80 play tickets ruined because someone a few rows up kept checking their phone in the darkened theatre and the light kept pulling my eyes from the stage.

    Posted by PatD May 10, 11 01:05 PM
  1. I agree that the parents at the concert should have used it as an opportunity to teach their youngsters how to behave in an audience and to appreciate the hard work of the performers. However, regardless of how their parenting style differs from mine, I would never judge them. It's entirely likely that those parents thought they were doing their fellow audience members a service by attempting to keep their children quiet and still during the performance, in the most effective way they knew how. If their youngsters were not distracted by those electronic devices and had instead been loud, squirmy, or otherwise distracting, there are those among us who would be criticizing those parents for not knowing how to keep their kids quiet. Same goes for kids in restaurants. I know parents who whip out the electronic devices to zombify their kids in restaurants. Personally, I think it's another lost teachable moment. But I know they do it so their kids won't bother the other restaurant patrons, not to be rude. Just something to think about, before you start burning these parents in effigy ...

    Posted by Nobody May 10, 11 01:51 PM
  1. As a music teacher at an elementary school, this is of course totally unacceptable behavior. How hurtful would it be to have your first recorder or band concert, look out at your family, and see them watching something on a screen!

    Absolutely parents use iPhones and smartphones and all sorts of other devices to film or take pictures at concerts, but using them for another purpose is rude to the performers in general, and completely unacceptable in society.

    I would have walked up to a principal or hosting teacher during intermission (if of course there was one) and asked them to reiterate an announcement saying that technological devices are to be used only for photographs and filming. If this wasn't possible, I feel that as a teacher it is admissable for you to stand up for the rights of the students who performed and say something quietly to the parents.

    Posted by Farantha May 10, 11 02:01 PM
  1. You think *this* is bad? You'd be amazed at the number of teens who seem to think it's acceptable to text each other during a friend's bar or bat mitzvah service. And even adults will do it sometimes. It boggles the mind. Electronic devices have intruded into even the most sacred spaces and have brought us as a society to new depths of rudeness.

    Posted by Robin May 10, 11 03:43 PM
  1. Could everyone please display some empathy for parents of small children who have to take them to places where they are expected to act much older than they are? Everyone parents differently and it sounds like electronic devices are either a savior for some parents or the pet peeve of others. The only way we can co-exist is if we display non-judgmental behavior. I really do not see the big deal with the kids on the phone. It does not bother me one bit. What does bother me is the judgmental, nasty tone of people responding here. Give parents a break.

    Posted by Sarah May 10, 11 04:21 PM
  1. He is also Autistic. He does not wear a sign that says, "I have special needs" and maybe, just maybe, the children you saw have special needs as well.
    --------------------------------------

    This is why in general I don't judge any individual family for their parenting techniques when they are out in public.** You just can never know what "invisible" issues and special needs might exist.
    But on a larger scale, it happens so frequently that no, it just is not possible that all the parents I see allowing their children to tune in to electronics at odd places (restaurants, concerts) have kids with special needs. Special needs kids are not 50% of the population, after all. So I imagine a lot of the comments are reflecting that reality -- we see it so often, it can't be all related to special needs. But again, you are right, any individual situation could be, and so we should be careful not to judge individuals.

    ** Okay, I do judge parenting techniques when those "techniques" involve ignoring the kids. I see that an appalling number of times -- out to a restaurant, and the parents clearly want a relaxing dinner, so they act as if the kids they brought are not there and just pay attention to each other. The kids either run wild, or stare at a video screen for 2 hours at the table. Awesome.

    Posted by jjlen May 10, 11 04:33 PM
  1. I would have said to the parent, of course, "could you please turn the volume down on your child's game, I am here to see my child in this concert and it is distracting. If they ignore you, inform the principal who should make an announcement at intermission. Some parents are rude and are raising rude kids.

    Posted by Sue May 10, 11 05:09 PM
  1. freedom is the prime issue being distributed today. freedom to be. freedom to learn. freedom to express. freedom to offend, freedom to be pc. freedom to to dispense with customs. freedom to ignore. freedom to act as if no one else exists.

    (i e : Don't tread on me!)

    you get my drift, im sure.

    what's also being dispensed is some version of sensitivity that applies to an imaginary que of idealists. who, by the way, do not live in the same circle of friends most of the real world does.
    this circle seems to think people must behave, respond and perform (it is just that, a performance) according to some set of idealistic, ultra compassionate, respectful and common sense rules. that rule set does not accommodate ingrates, selfish, deviants, greedy, oblivious, mentally disabled or other 'non-fit' psychological configurations.

    self composure is an exercise in crowd control, but on an individual basis. sharing is a demonstration of selfless concern for others, rather than a self involved obsession with self gratification.

    teachers love the concept of control, but these 'students of life' aren't in your class. they are too far gone to be reprimanded or even recovered from their gadget addictions. get used to it.

    or start teaching the current set of students to live without these gadgets/computers/ 'info-drugadgets'. perhaps then, the next 100 years may show some social improvement, but i doubt it.

    Posted by Synonym Friend May 11, 11 07:30 AM
  1. The sound on during the performance is completely unacceptable. The defense of many is that the kids aren't old enough to sit still and the parents are keeping them quiet so as not to be rude to others. (and one of these kids was 8!) If the kid truly can't sit still, how about a pencil and paper, or a book? When is the magical age that they will be able to sit still? Likely, never. Can anyone hear these parents saying, "Well, now that your 9, you have to sit still and watch the actual performance."? Those are the kids who, in a few years, will be playing with their own phones everywhere they go; in the theatre, dining with their parents, walking with friends, etc.

    I have an iPhone, and believe me, I have to make a conscious effort to keep from using it constantly. It is also very difficult not to let my kids use it whenever they want, but it's worth the effort to keep it to a minimum, for their own good.

    Posted by mom2boys May 11, 11 08:36 AM
  1. Special needs aside, kids can actually be taught to behave at concerts, church, and other similar venues if you start young.

    Anyone who has met my older son in most group settings would swear he has ADHD. He is loud, energetic, talks non-stop, and moves a lot. But he has attended classical music concerts since he was a toddler, has gone to family events at Symphony Hall, has sat through plays, and has behaved through three hour church services. We accomplished this by starting him young and explaining that 'concert behavior' means no talking, whisper if you have to go to the bathroom, stay in your seat, clap at the end of songs. We started the kids out going to outdoor concerts, where fidgeting was more acceptable, and shorter events. In church we never used the babysitting service. If the kids figured out that "hey, if I misbehave, they'll send me to a room full of toys!" then they would never learn to be quiet in church. We took them out if necessary, but generally, they behaved with minimal fussing. And we don't own any portable electronics. We have no portable DVD player, the family has one cell phone that we use only for emergencies, no gameboys or any of that. Because we've always been this way, they have grown up knowing how to occupy themselves quietly when they have to.

    It also helps that when we are not in concert or church mode, I let them go to town with running, getting dirty, climbing trees, and experimenting to their hearts content. Kids who get a lot of unstructured free time are more likely to be able to sit still the few times they need to, without electronic pacifiers.


    Posted by BMS May 11, 11 08:49 AM
  1. It entirely rude and unacceptable to teach children it is ok to disregard the event that they are supposed to be taking part in. If they can't handle it, they shouldn't be there.
    Having a child with special needs, does not absolve you from social decency. If you "need" an electronic screen keeps your child occupied, then at least sit in the back corner of the room where its not disruptive to others.
    Ugh, I dread getting to school age with my daughter and throwing her into the pit of despair that the world has become.
    I think you should have said something. What? I don't know, but if its disruptive enough in the future, than just let rip.

    Posted by lala May 11, 11 09:02 AM
  1. Sorry, having small kids is not an excuse to be disrespectful to the performers and audience. Bring something quieter (like a book) and if the kids are disruptive, walk out of the auditorium. that's what parents did before cell phones and ipods (at least my parents did). If I'm at a music concert I want to hear the music, not an electronic game, especially if I am there to see someone I know.

    If it were bothering me I'd ask them to turn it down. I'm surprised no one made an announcement before the concert to turn everything off like they do at professional performances (or maybe they did and were being ignored?).


    Posted by mk May 11, 11 12:32 PM
  1. I'm sorry, but this is stunningly rude behavior on the part of the parents, and they are teaching their children to be rude as well.

    It is never okay to disturb a concert or other event such as this with electronic playthings. I do understand that there are special needs children who might constitute an exception, but even in these cases the parents cannot absolve themselves of responsibility. I know a family with a severely disabled autistic teenage child; the parents can only go to restaurants, etc., if they provide their child with a video or other entertainment device, but they have provided her with high quality, comfortable head phones. The child is comfortable, the parents get a well-deserved dinner out and other patrons are in no way impacted.

    My son attends a school which allows NO electronic devices at concerts, plays, etc. That means no one may take pictures or videos during the performance; often, time is provided after the performance for pictures and/or parents may attend a dress rehearsal to take pictures if absolutely necessary. Usually, a parent will take high quality pictures at a dress rehearsal and share them with the families. I do sometimes regret not having a video of a performance, but I have to say that every parent, sibling and friend of those children performing gives full, undivided attention to the performance. We are all completely present, and it is a wonderful experience. It is well worth the 'sacrifice' of not having an individual video. Further, even the tiniest siblings learn to attend to a performance; if a two year old gets antsy and noisy, a parent will remove that child from the auditorium to avoid distracting the performers and distrupting the performance for everyone.

    When my child was a toddler, we made a point of choosing appropriate activities for him. We had appropriate expectations, and, if he needed to be removed from a situation (a restaurant, puppet show, etc.) then one of us took him out until he calmed down enough to sit still. There were no recriminations, no belittling of him - he was simply acting his age and had reached his capacity to be quiet, so we facilitated appropriate behavior. He and his schoolmates are now attentive, respectful, joyful pre-adolescents; they can run around like lunatics just like any other 11 year old kid, but they can also sit quietly, listen intently and appreciate the performances of others. And they can do this because they were taught, not simply appeased and sedated with devices.

    Posted by CC May 11, 11 01:49 PM
  1. When you go to the movies, a concert, or a play, there are announcements to keep the noise down, and to shut off cellular phones so as to not disrupt the performance.

    Perhaps a small announcement before these less formal events would also be advisable. That way, there would be no doubt as to the policy.

    Posted by Ron Thibodeau May 12, 11 12:14 PM
  1. Just wanted to add: at our church is a family with a severely autistic child. This child is nonverbal, and makes odd noises at random times. The parents alway sit in the balcony near the exit, and take her out if she becomes disruptive. If she is just standing and rocking quietly in the back, no one minds and the mass goes on. She has been coming to church every Sunday her whole life, and her parents have worked hard to help her participate to the best of her ability. Because she really likes the music, they usually stay after mass when everyone else has gone and the choir I am in rehearses for the next mass. We don't mind the audience, she gets her own private concert in a venue where no one else is bothered by her disability, and we know the music is good when she shouts! She is a kid who proabably would not do well at a traditional concert. But her parents have found a way for her to enjoy music and share in a faith community without getting in the way of others' enjoyment of the same. If a kid truly cannot deal with a particular concert venue without being disruptive or requiring disruptive devices, the parents should be encouraged to get creative about finding different, alternative venues.

    Posted by BMS May 13, 11 09:00 AM
 
23 comments so far...
  1. Banning electronic devices is not the answer. At my kids' concert, half of the parents were using their cellphones to take pictures and/or video of their children. Also, since our school schedules concerts in the middle of the day, parents need to be able to receive urgent work phone calls.

    I do think it's ridiculous to be using those devices to entertain children at a concert, but banning them? Really? Why not just nicely ask people to put them away if they aren't using them to film?

    Posted by akmom May 10, 11 06:48 AM
  1. I agree whole-heartedly about the self-fullfilling prophecy with the way these parents are bringing up their children but I must disagree about not saying anything to them.

    While I would have loved to tell them to turn the devices of entirely and instruct the parents on proper behavior at such a public event - which undoubtedly would lead to a rather loud argument - I would have actually requested that they turn off the volume on the devices.

    As scared as we all are these days of offending a possible psychopath, I would HOPE that the other surrounding audience members would have backed up the writer in that they also were there to listen to the children on stage.

    I wish modern parents would learn what parents of the past knew - the earlier you start teaching children, the easier it is to get a desired result later on. REGARDLESS of if it is education or behavior!!!!

    I see so many children that can tell you the "square root as well as the cube of pi" at three years old (kidding) but can't sit still at ten years old because they "didn't want to upset Little Johnny or hurt Little Janey's self-esteem" by disciplining them. And then the parents have the nerve to complain how stressful their lives are because their kids "don't respect them"!

    I hate the phrase but...... "WELL, DUUUUUUH!!!!" A little bit too late NOW don't you think?

    Posted by meffaboy322 May 10, 11 07:10 AM
  1. I am a parent of a daughter who will be three in August.

    I think that the behavior of the parents who allowed the siblings to watch videos/play games at the concert completely unacceptable. How are these kids going to ever learn to pay attention to something or to show respect for what others are doing or saying.

    Last night, we went out to dinner. Across the restaurant there was a kid (my guess about 3.5 yrs old) who had a portable DVD player on the table and was watching a cartoon the whole time. My daughter asked me a few times why the kid was watching TV at the table. i had no answer for her other than that the boy didn't know how eat like a big boy.

    To the letter writer, there is nothing that you could have said. If the volume was dstracting I might have asked the parents to turn it down so that it you could hear the performance. As I said, I think it was unacceptable for the kids to not be paying attention to the performance, but it is not your place to tell the parents how to parent.

    Posted by Jcon May 10, 11 10:08 AM
  1. A lot of adults today have never been to a formal concert and don't know how to behave themselves. I don't know how they're going to teach their kids how to behave. It is completely appropriate to say something during the earliest possible break about how rude and disrespectful it is to the children who have worked so hard all year preparing.

    AKMOM, I certainly hope you're at least keeping that ringer turned off and planning to step outside of the auditorium in the event you get an "urgent work phone call." But you're still being rude (and teaching your kids to be rude) because unless you're a doctor or something there really isn't anything that can't wait.

    Posted by geocool May 10, 11 10:38 AM
  1. I am one of the moms whose child is using a personal electronic device at dinner or at a concert with the volume on low. My child will not sit still and focus on his sister's concert. He is also Autistic. He does not wear a sign that says, "I have special needs" and maybe, just maybe, the children you saw have special needs as well.

    If the volume was too loud, you can certainly ask that they be lowered but I don't think judging a family by their use of electronic devices is necessary.

    Posted by 2Typical1AutisticMom May 10, 11 11:38 AM
  1. My mother use to attend all my soccer games and concerts. She'd read a book during the games. I didn't mind, that she was physically there was the important thing.

    Provided the distraction is quiet, I honestly don't have a problem with it. And it doesn't matter if the distraction is electronic or paper.

    Posted by Michael May 10, 11 12:31 PM
  1. geocool: I wholeheartedly agree. I'm a responder and on call 24/7, but there is only one number that would come up that would require my answer during such an event - and if I miss it, I have the other responders in my office to cover the need. So leaving the phone off for an hour even in my case is acceptable. I can't imagine what someone who works in non-response career fields could consider so dire that they would leave their child's concert to tend to.

    And my phone ringers (personal and business) are ALWAYS on vibrate. I hate the ringing of phones around me. It's jarring and annoying and most importantly, especially in public spaces, rude.

    As for entertaining kids like this, I have seen too much of it and it's tragic. Kids need to learn both patience and how to amuse themselves. My daughter doesn't get TV at dinner, no matter where we are. She doesn't get a portable DVD player in the car - instead, we talk about what she sees, we sing, we listen to music...and on long trips, she plays with her travel drawing desk or "reads" books. Or even naps!

    I probably would have said something at least regarding the volume of the devices. It seems as though the parents were saying, "We're only here out of obligation, not because we're actually interested in seeing what these kids have worked so hard to do," and that's just rude.

    Posted by Phe May 10, 11 12:37 PM
  1. The fact that it was an electronic device is a red herring. Anything noisy does not belong there. Yes, they should have brought something quieter. But if the three year old kid squirmed, or heaven forbid made a peep or accidentally kicked the seat back of the person in front of them, someone else would be writing in about the clueless parents who ruined the performance by forcing a kid who's too small to sit through the whole thing to be there without bringing something to occupy him.

    Posted by di May 10, 11 12:50 PM
  1. I would have talked to them if the volume bothered me.

    The blue screen of devices bothers me too - I had $80 play tickets ruined because someone a few rows up kept checking their phone in the darkened theatre and the light kept pulling my eyes from the stage.

    Posted by PatD May 10, 11 01:05 PM
  1. I agree that the parents at the concert should have used it as an opportunity to teach their youngsters how to behave in an audience and to appreciate the hard work of the performers. However, regardless of how their parenting style differs from mine, I would never judge them. It's entirely likely that those parents thought they were doing their fellow audience members a service by attempting to keep their children quiet and still during the performance, in the most effective way they knew how. If their youngsters were not distracted by those electronic devices and had instead been loud, squirmy, or otherwise distracting, there are those among us who would be criticizing those parents for not knowing how to keep their kids quiet. Same goes for kids in restaurants. I know parents who whip out the electronic devices to zombify their kids in restaurants. Personally, I think it's another lost teachable moment. But I know they do it so their kids won't bother the other restaurant patrons, not to be rude. Just something to think about, before you start burning these parents in effigy ...

    Posted by Nobody May 10, 11 01:51 PM
  1. As a music teacher at an elementary school, this is of course totally unacceptable behavior. How hurtful would it be to have your first recorder or band concert, look out at your family, and see them watching something on a screen!

    Absolutely parents use iPhones and smartphones and all sorts of other devices to film or take pictures at concerts, but using them for another purpose is rude to the performers in general, and completely unacceptable in society.

    I would have walked up to a principal or hosting teacher during intermission (if of course there was one) and asked them to reiterate an announcement saying that technological devices are to be used only for photographs and filming. If this wasn't possible, I feel that as a teacher it is admissable for you to stand up for the rights of the students who performed and say something quietly to the parents.

    Posted by Farantha May 10, 11 02:01 PM
  1. You think *this* is bad? You'd be amazed at the number of teens who seem to think it's acceptable to text each other during a friend's bar or bat mitzvah service. And even adults will do it sometimes. It boggles the mind. Electronic devices have intruded into even the most sacred spaces and have brought us as a society to new depths of rudeness.

    Posted by Robin May 10, 11 03:43 PM
  1. Could everyone please display some empathy for parents of small children who have to take them to places where they are expected to act much older than they are? Everyone parents differently and it sounds like electronic devices are either a savior for some parents or the pet peeve of others. The only way we can co-exist is if we display non-judgmental behavior. I really do not see the big deal with the kids on the phone. It does not bother me one bit. What does bother me is the judgmental, nasty tone of people responding here. Give parents a break.

    Posted by Sarah May 10, 11 04:21 PM
  1. He is also Autistic. He does not wear a sign that says, "I have special needs" and maybe, just maybe, the children you saw have special needs as well.
    --------------------------------------

    This is why in general I don't judge any individual family for their parenting techniques when they are out in public.** You just can never know what "invisible" issues and special needs might exist.
    But on a larger scale, it happens so frequently that no, it just is not possible that all the parents I see allowing their children to tune in to electronics at odd places (restaurants, concerts) have kids with special needs. Special needs kids are not 50% of the population, after all. So I imagine a lot of the comments are reflecting that reality -- we see it so often, it can't be all related to special needs. But again, you are right, any individual situation could be, and so we should be careful not to judge individuals.

    ** Okay, I do judge parenting techniques when those "techniques" involve ignoring the kids. I see that an appalling number of times -- out to a restaurant, and the parents clearly want a relaxing dinner, so they act as if the kids they brought are not there and just pay attention to each other. The kids either run wild, or stare at a video screen for 2 hours at the table. Awesome.

    Posted by jjlen May 10, 11 04:33 PM
  1. I would have said to the parent, of course, "could you please turn the volume down on your child's game, I am here to see my child in this concert and it is distracting. If they ignore you, inform the principal who should make an announcement at intermission. Some parents are rude and are raising rude kids.

    Posted by Sue May 10, 11 05:09 PM
  1. freedom is the prime issue being distributed today. freedom to be. freedom to learn. freedom to express. freedom to offend, freedom to be pc. freedom to to dispense with customs. freedom to ignore. freedom to act as if no one else exists.

    (i e : Don't tread on me!)

    you get my drift, im sure.

    what's also being dispensed is some version of sensitivity that applies to an imaginary que of idealists. who, by the way, do not live in the same circle of friends most of the real world does.
    this circle seems to think people must behave, respond and perform (it is just that, a performance) according to some set of idealistic, ultra compassionate, respectful and common sense rules. that rule set does not accommodate ingrates, selfish, deviants, greedy, oblivious, mentally disabled or other 'non-fit' psychological configurations.

    self composure is an exercise in crowd control, but on an individual basis. sharing is a demonstration of selfless concern for others, rather than a self involved obsession with self gratification.

    teachers love the concept of control, but these 'students of life' aren't in your class. they are too far gone to be reprimanded or even recovered from their gadget addictions. get used to it.

    or start teaching the current set of students to live without these gadgets/computers/ 'info-drugadgets'. perhaps then, the next 100 years may show some social improvement, but i doubt it.

    Posted by Synonym Friend May 11, 11 07:30 AM
  1. The sound on during the performance is completely unacceptable. The defense of many is that the kids aren't old enough to sit still and the parents are keeping them quiet so as not to be rude to others. (and one of these kids was 8!) If the kid truly can't sit still, how about a pencil and paper, or a book? When is the magical age that they will be able to sit still? Likely, never. Can anyone hear these parents saying, "Well, now that your 9, you have to sit still and watch the actual performance."? Those are the kids who, in a few years, will be playing with their own phones everywhere they go; in the theatre, dining with their parents, walking with friends, etc.

    I have an iPhone, and believe me, I have to make a conscious effort to keep from using it constantly. It is also very difficult not to let my kids use it whenever they want, but it's worth the effort to keep it to a minimum, for their own good.

    Posted by mom2boys May 11, 11 08:36 AM
  1. Special needs aside, kids can actually be taught to behave at concerts, church, and other similar venues if you start young.

    Anyone who has met my older son in most group settings would swear he has ADHD. He is loud, energetic, talks non-stop, and moves a lot. But he has attended classical music concerts since he was a toddler, has gone to family events at Symphony Hall, has sat through plays, and has behaved through three hour church services. We accomplished this by starting him young and explaining that 'concert behavior' means no talking, whisper if you have to go to the bathroom, stay in your seat, clap at the end of songs. We started the kids out going to outdoor concerts, where fidgeting was more acceptable, and shorter events. In church we never used the babysitting service. If the kids figured out that "hey, if I misbehave, they'll send me to a room full of toys!" then they would never learn to be quiet in church. We took them out if necessary, but generally, they behaved with minimal fussing. And we don't own any portable electronics. We have no portable DVD player, the family has one cell phone that we use only for emergencies, no gameboys or any of that. Because we've always been this way, they have grown up knowing how to occupy themselves quietly when they have to.

    It also helps that when we are not in concert or church mode, I let them go to town with running, getting dirty, climbing trees, and experimenting to their hearts content. Kids who get a lot of unstructured free time are more likely to be able to sit still the few times they need to, without electronic pacifiers.


    Posted by BMS May 11, 11 08:49 AM
  1. It entirely rude and unacceptable to teach children it is ok to disregard the event that they are supposed to be taking part in. If they can't handle it, they shouldn't be there.
    Having a child with special needs, does not absolve you from social decency. If you "need" an electronic screen keeps your child occupied, then at least sit in the back corner of the room where its not disruptive to others.
    Ugh, I dread getting to school age with my daughter and throwing her into the pit of despair that the world has become.
    I think you should have said something. What? I don't know, but if its disruptive enough in the future, than just let rip.

    Posted by lala May 11, 11 09:02 AM
  1. Sorry, having small kids is not an excuse to be disrespectful to the performers and audience. Bring something quieter (like a book) and if the kids are disruptive, walk out of the auditorium. that's what parents did before cell phones and ipods (at least my parents did). If I'm at a music concert I want to hear the music, not an electronic game, especially if I am there to see someone I know.

    If it were bothering me I'd ask them to turn it down. I'm surprised no one made an announcement before the concert to turn everything off like they do at professional performances (or maybe they did and were being ignored?).


    Posted by mk May 11, 11 12:32 PM
  1. I'm sorry, but this is stunningly rude behavior on the part of the parents, and they are teaching their children to be rude as well.

    It is never okay to disturb a concert or other event such as this with electronic playthings. I do understand that there are special needs children who might constitute an exception, but even in these cases the parents cannot absolve themselves of responsibility. I know a family with a severely disabled autistic teenage child; the parents can only go to restaurants, etc., if they provide their child with a video or other entertainment device, but they have provided her with high quality, comfortable head phones. The child is comfortable, the parents get a well-deserved dinner out and other patrons are in no way impacted.

    My son attends a school which allows NO electronic devices at concerts, plays, etc. That means no one may take pictures or videos during the performance; often, time is provided after the performance for pictures and/or parents may attend a dress rehearsal to take pictures if absolutely necessary. Usually, a parent will take high quality pictures at a dress rehearsal and share them with the families. I do sometimes regret not having a video of a performance, but I have to say that every parent, sibling and friend of those children performing gives full, undivided attention to the performance. We are all completely present, and it is a wonderful experience. It is well worth the 'sacrifice' of not having an individual video. Further, even the tiniest siblings learn to attend to a performance; if a two year old gets antsy and noisy, a parent will remove that child from the auditorium to avoid distracting the performers and distrupting the performance for everyone.

    When my child was a toddler, we made a point of choosing appropriate activities for him. We had appropriate expectations, and, if he needed to be removed from a situation (a restaurant, puppet show, etc.) then one of us took him out until he calmed down enough to sit still. There were no recriminations, no belittling of him - he was simply acting his age and had reached his capacity to be quiet, so we facilitated appropriate behavior. He and his schoolmates are now attentive, respectful, joyful pre-adolescents; they can run around like lunatics just like any other 11 year old kid, but they can also sit quietly, listen intently and appreciate the performances of others. And they can do this because they were taught, not simply appeased and sedated with devices.

    Posted by CC May 11, 11 01:49 PM
  1. When you go to the movies, a concert, or a play, there are announcements to keep the noise down, and to shut off cellular phones so as to not disrupt the performance.

    Perhaps a small announcement before these less formal events would also be advisable. That way, there would be no doubt as to the policy.

    Posted by Ron Thibodeau May 12, 11 12:14 PM
  1. Just wanted to add: at our church is a family with a severely autistic child. This child is nonverbal, and makes odd noises at random times. The parents alway sit in the balcony near the exit, and take her out if she becomes disruptive. If she is just standing and rocking quietly in the back, no one minds and the mass goes on. She has been coming to church every Sunday her whole life, and her parents have worked hard to help her participate to the best of her ability. Because she really likes the music, they usually stay after mass when everyone else has gone and the choir I am in rehearses for the next mass. We don't mind the audience, she gets her own private concert in a venue where no one else is bothered by her disability, and we know the music is good when she shouts! She is a kid who proabably would not do well at a traditional concert. But her parents have found a way for her to enjoy music and share in a faith community without getting in the way of others' enjoyment of the same. If a kid truly cannot deal with a particular concert venue without being disruptive or requiring disruptive devices, the parents should be encouraged to get creative about finding different, alternative venues.

    Posted by BMS May 13, 11 09:00 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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