Q: Recently I was at lunch on a Saturday with some coworkers. Yes I work on Saturdays. The table next to us was a couple with a young child, probably a two-year-old. The iPad they were using to placate the baby, something I see very often, was blaring so loudly it was actually louder than the music the restaurant was playing over its own speaker system. My lunch mates and I looked at each other a few times until one of us finally braved his way over to ask them to turn it down.
This is not the first time, nor probably the last time I’ll ever encounter this. What’s the protocol here? For both me, and the parent.
We adults know that when out in public space, we conduct ourselves with a level of decorum and self-restraint. Same goes for supervising our children. Excessive iPad volume is akin to a screaming child. It’s loud and disruptive. So, yes, by all means, you have the right to request the volume be lowered on her kid’s iPad. And you should. Abso-fricken-lutely. But you shouldn’t have to.
Let me back up. A few years ago, I was brunching at BLD in Los Angeles while pregnant. I remember seeing two mothers with toddlers a few tables away. Both kids had iPads propped in front of their tiny cherub faces, their gazes fixed and eyes glazed over, and I thought, “Wow. Unbelievable,” and then surely made some sort of snarky snicker and went back to my indulgent lemon ricotta pancakes. I swore I would not be one of those mothers who popped an iPad in front of her child in public places. Ha. Things changed, as they often do, once my son was born.
Yes, I realize I’ve made the choice to become a parent, a choice that often necessitates invitation declinations among other countless compromises. If I do plan to head out with my toddler in tow to a more adult-friendly setting, I of course bring something for him to keep him occupied, especially if the outing happens to be somewhere confining, like the booth of a restaurant. And yes, you better believe I bring the iPad. But you know what else I bring? Headphones.
Think about anytime you’ve overheard someone speaking on their cell phone near you in public. It’s super annoying. They’re often loud, obtrusive, and don’t exhibit any awareness of the people around them, they’re so focused on the person on the other end of the call. Take that level of annoyance and multiply it when it comes to the audio of a children’s game or movie. I can’t tell you how much more annoying it is, as the algorithm is surely more complicated than I can possibly imagine. I just know that the sounds of those kiddie apps are so damn obnoxious. And I think that when I’m in my own home and it’s my kid playing it. It’s an entirely different experience for someone who’s out having lunch at a restaurant to be made to suffer through the banal babble of an automated voice coaxing some strange kid through the alphabet. And the effects are only compounded in smaller spaces, such as airplanes. I mean, it’s just painful. And infuriating.
So, parents: Yes, bring the iPad. Brilliant. It’ll help keep the kiddos entertained and curb their urge to crawl under the tables, throw food, or make any other joyous outbursts while in public. But please, bring headphones. Respect those around you. No one nearby wants to be disturbed by iPad audio, and if I were to guess, probably neither do you. And remember, if your child is playing and the audio is overly audible to those in close proximity, be sure to turn the volume as low as possible, because if you’re approached by an irritated patron, you are indeed at fault.
Have you ever had to confront someone about their child’s iPad volume? Share your experience with us in the comments below!
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