I tease my high school teacher husband about basic Zoom etiquette. “You know you’ll have kids juuling onscreen,” I laugh. He rolls his eyes, but he knows it’s true. Even high school kids don’t necessarily know how to behave onscreen — they don’t have a sense that of what it means to have a serious virtual meetup. And when school time rolls around, you’ll do your kids’ teachers a favor if you practice some rules with them now, before they seriously embarrass themselves. Because the potential for serious Zoom embarrassment is high.
1. Dress for the Classroom
Parents, you play a part in this. You know Zoom etiquette dictates you look decent from the waist up. So make sure your 7-year-old has brushed his hair and teeth. No pajamas allowed. We here at Scary Mommy know teenage boys and feel that we have to say this: you must wear a shirt, and you must wear a different shirt every day. Do your kid’s hair. Wash their faces. Make them, in general, look like presentable little human beings.
2. No, You Cannot Finish Breakfast During Homeroom
No one wants to see your kid slurp up their Lucky Charms while the teacher is keeping track of housekeeping stuff. Food stays— well, we all gave up the battle of keeping it in the kitchen a long, long time ago, but keep it off camera. Zoom etiquette dictates that we don’t have to hear your kid captain crunching.
3. Charge Yourself
Worst Zoom etiquette ever: suddenly diving for the outlet. Even worse Zoom etiquette: raising a hand and saying, “I need to go look for my charger, because I think my brother/dog/space aliens stole it.” Worst Zoom etiquette: absently wandering off camera, then diving to plug in the device. During the diving, the entire class is treated to a view of your kid’s derriere, and remember the Zoom maxim of “decent from the waist up”? Who the f*ck knows if they’re even wearing pants?
4. Zoom Etiquette Dictates One Device At A Time
You think we can’t tell your kid is on their phone? We can tell your kid is on their phone. They are not sneaky. They are not stealthy. They look like they are trying to be sneaky and stealthy and failing in a a stupendously teenage manner.
5. Sit Down and Shut Up
No, really, tell them to sit down (we don’t want to see your kid’s Star Wars tighty-whities) and shut up (we don’t want them talking over the teacher or other kids). Hand-raising rules still apply. Teach them not to speak unless someone asks them to speak. There is a mute button and if your their teacher asks them to use it, they need to use it.
Zoom etiquette dictates they become familiar with the location of that mute button now.
6. Pick A Space and Stay There
Arrange a neat little space for Zooming. Doesn’t matter where it is, as long as it’s not supremely distracting to other people in the classroom (i.e. not in front of a TV screen). This is not the chance for your kid to carry their classmates through the house, or take them on trips to the bathroom (remember that girl?) or show off the kewl posters in their bedroom. They should be situated, preferably at a desk, with a place to take notes and a plain background. No field trips.
7. Zoom Etiquette Dictates A Firm “No Visitors” Rule
Remember how we all went “awwwww” when those kids wandered into an interview? That’s not cute when it happens in the classroom. No one cares about your kids’ siblings. No one cares if your kid got a new puppy, gerbil, kitten, hedgehog, ferret, kinkajou, etc., and even if the other children do, your child’s teacher really, really wishes they wouldn’t. So stow the livestock, please.
8. Your Child Is Not A Parrot
Teach your kid that they are not a parrot: Zooming is not a chance to stare at themselves for hours at a time. Everyone can tell they’re looking at themselves. It’s annoying and kind of hilarious. Everyone else is trying to memorize spelling words, and your kid’s in a Zoom box using the computer as a mirror. Not so adorable. Zoom etiquette means you watch the presenter, not yourself, even if you’re Timothee Chalamet.
9. Zoom Etiquette Means Quiet
If your kid’s mic is on, we can hear what’s happening in the house. That could range from their sibling watching Duck Tails next to them to you yelling, “Layla! Get back in your cell! Don’t make me get the hose!” a la Mrs. Doubtfire. No one wants to hear any of these things. Other unacceptable sounds: barking dogs, washing machines, screaming children, your child yelling at other people to shut up, you yelling at other people to shut up, your child yelling for you to bring them things.
Boil it down to this: Zoom etiquette dictates that no one hears yelling of any kind.
10. They Can See You
Teach your kid that everyone can see them all the time, and they have to remember that. They may not be in a room full of people, but 27 people can see them pick their nose. Those same 27 people can see their aforementioned Star Wars undies if they stand up, their phones if they take them out, their vape pens if they juul, their armpits if they sniff them. Those people can see them reach down to rearrange, which, on a computer screen, will look like… yeah.
Teach your children that Zoom etiquette boils down to one thing: they are watching you. This might make your teens even more insecure, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid your teenage boy sprawling in front of a computer, shirtless, juuling, blasting “WAP” in the background.
No one needs to see that.
Least of all in a learning environment.
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