DEAR ABBY: I am writing about the letter from "Holding My Tongue" (Nov. 8), the woman who was upset because many children were playing with electronic devices during her grandchildren's school concerts and recitals. While I agree that most children should pay attention to the event at hand, as the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, I have a different perspective.
There are apps and games designed to keep these children occupied and help them deal with the stress and anxiety of being in a large group of people. I should not have to leave my sons at home because they are on the spectrum, so a harmless, quiet game that allows them to participate without being disruptive is a godsend to me.
Sometimes it is not obvious why someone is doing something; so as long as it isn't disrupting the event, please try to be tolerant. -- LAURA IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR LAURA: Your point is well-stated, and was one made by a number of parents of children with special needs. Readers had interesting comments on this topic, so I'm sharing a few:
DEAR ABBY: If there's a possibility young children could be unruly during a performance, I think they should be allowed to use a tablet or something to keep them occupied.
Sometimes it's hard to find a sitter or afford one. When children get dragged to programs they have no interest in, they lose patience and become fidgety. If given something to occupy their attention, as long as it has headphones, then I don't see a problem. I'd rather have that than kids shouting, screaming and crying because they're unhappy being there. -- UNDERSTANDING IN LOUISIANA
DEAR ABBY: In this digital age, we have lost touch with basic common decency and respect for others. I not only notice this in children, but adults as well. I have seen people check their emails while they are in church, or couples sitting together at a restaurant, both fixated on their electronic devices and not speaking a word to each other.
It's sad to imagine what the next generation will be like if we don't start putting the devices down and interacting with each other again like human beings. I raised all three of my kids this way, so I know it's not impossible. -- MAINTAINING HUMAN CONTACT
DEAR ABBY: When my precious mother passed away last summer, my sister-in-law brought two handheld games to the funeral. My niece and nephew played and played while the pastor spoke about my mother.
It was the last straw for me in a series of incredibly rude actions over the years. My children were also appalled. When respect is no longer taught at home, we sink to the lowest level as a society. -- DEBRA ON THE EAST COAST
DEAR ABBY: I have stopped attending my friends' grandchildren's recitals because I, too, cannot tolerate rudeness. Many parents today just don't want to bother with their children. If there is a toy that can keep them busy, their parents "enable" them to grow up as idiots who can't appreciate the world and its beauty because their world is lived entirely on an electronic screen. -- GEORGE IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR ABBY: What parents who allow this type of behavior don't seem to understand is that it transfers to the classroom. Their children assume it's OK to ignore the teacher, the lesson and instructions that in some cases could save a life. -- FRUSTRATED EDUCATOR IN MIAMI
DEAR ABBY: I used to conduct workshops for teachers on how to instruct with newspapers. When I started my lecture, I would begin by saying, "OK, teachers, turn off your iPads, iPhones and iPods, because I don't want to become iRate." They loved it, and it was a great kickoff for the lecture. -- ALFRED IN TEXAS
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)