Cell Phones and Funeral Etiquette

Cell phones are ubiquitous. Ninety-five percent of all Americans own one, and many rely on them as a primary means of communication and source of information. However, just because nearly everyone has a cell phone doesn’t mean that its use is appropriate at all times. According to the commonly accepted rules of funeral etiquette, cell phone use during a funeral should be avoided to the extent possible. Some experts recommend that, to prevent your cell phone from becoming a disturbance, you do not even bring it into the funeral service at all.

Realistically, however, it is not always practical to leave your phone behind. If you must keep your phone with you during the funeral, here are some ideas to prevent it from becoming an unwelcome distraction from the proceedings.

Mute the Phone Completely

A funeral service is typically contemplative. The sound of a cell phone can disrupt the eulogy or another quiet moment and distress people who are already emotional over the loss of a loved one. If you bring your phone into the service, take a moment before entering to make sure that the phone is either turned off completely or all sounds are muted.

You may think that you are being respectful and fulfilling your obligations if you set your phone to vibrate. However, a vibrating phone can still cause a disruption by making an audible noise. During the service, and the burial if applicable, the sound must remain off completely.

Step Out if You Have To Use the Phone

In almost every case, a phone call or a text can wait until after the service is finished. However, if you absolutely must use the phone during the service, step outside so that you do not disturb the other mourners. While texting is less disruptive than talking on the phone, it can still create a distraction, and it is disrespectful to the family of the deceased because it seems like you care more about whatever you are talking about on your phone than about paying attention to the service.

If you must leave the room, don’t draw attention to yourself by walking up the center aisle. Rather, choose the most unobtrusive exit route out of the room that you can find, and leave as quietly as you can.

Don’t Give the Phone to Children To Play With

Many parents find that a smart phone can be a useful tool to keep children occupied and quiet during proceedings that may not otherwise interest or involve them. There is a valid debate to be had over when this is acceptable, but it is never appropriate at a funeral. Not only might it be distracting to others when children play with a phone, but you are missing an opportunity to teach your child proper funeral etiquette. If your children are too young to understand what is going on at a funeral or how to behave, make arrangements to leave them at home with a responsible caretaker rather than bringing them to a service.

Don’t Take Photos or Video Without the Family’s Permission

Sometimes the family of the deceased will specifically ask you to take photos or videos of the funeral service. If so, it is acceptable to use your phone in compliance with their wishes. Otherwise, if you would like to take pictures at a funeral, ask the family’s permission first. Some photos may be more acceptable than others, e.g., a tasteful photo of floral arrangements as opposed to selfies and group shots.

You may want to post something in honor of the deceased on social media. A tasteful photo posted with the family’s permission is appropriate, but wait until you get home before creating the post.

Remember that the purpose of a memorial service is to pay tribute to the deceased and support the family. With that in mind, the rules of funeral etiquette are easier to understand, especially as it relates to cell phone use.

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