iPad etiquette: How to behave with your tablet

What is the proper etiquette for owning and using a tablet?

Story highlights

  • Tablets are quickly hitting the market, so what is the proper etiquette in owning one?
  • Expect: Stares, questions and attention from kids
  • Warning: Clear your browsing history and don't bring it to a movie or a meeting
You know what's weird? The fact that the iPad debuted less than two years ago. It wasn't long ago that the smooth little slabs were things of mystery; in 2010, early adopters got gawking stares on public transportation, and owning one meant you were on the cutting edge of tech-spending.
Well, the special-ness didn't last long. Apple sold almost 15 million iPads in 2010, and the head count of different tablets on store shelves is in triple digits.
And of course, among the droves of somnambulant screen-tappers are a goodly portion who have no manners. The confusion about what constitutes good "tabletiquette" is understandable -- they're a weird hybrid between smartphones and laptops, and they're still novel enough that we haven't as a society agreed upon some codes of conduct.
Enter us and our highfalutin notion that we get to tell you how to comport yourselves (because, you know, we're the ones with a column called Netiquette).
Here are some tips for being polite with that 'Pad:
Expect the stares.
Embrace them, even. Sure, the aforementioned gawking died down once we all got used to seeing iPads in public spaces/transportation, but if you have a non-Apple tablet, the thing will arouse some curiosity. Be nice. Answer questions about whether you consider it a worthwhile purchase. If you're not wearing headphones, you might as well have a big "Talk to me!" sticker on the back of your device.
Don't put anything embarrassing on your tablet.
Your iPad is an open e-book. You can expect a little privacy on your Kindle (no one needs to know you downloaded "The Dance of Intimacy") or on your smartphone (anyone with any social grace knows they should stay away from your personal lockbox of texts, voice mails and e-mail), but a tablet is just begging to be played with.
In more ways than one: A friend shared a tale of being handed a PR person's personal tablet and told to look up something related to a client. Said friend obediently typed a letter into the address bar -- and up popped a list of recently visited URLs, all beginning with the same letter, and all of them, yes, porn. Clear your browsing history, OK? On an iPad's Safari, you just click on Bookmarks/History/Clear History. And please, clean your tablet regularly. Shudder.
Don't get it out during a movie.
We're not just talking about theaters (keep it under wraps there, too), but home movies. The glowing screen steals your fellow viewers' attention when they're trying to get lost in the plot line. Honestly, this goes for your smartphone, too. If you can't make it through 120 minutes without checking Words With Friends, you're choosing the wrong flicks.
Use caution when bringing it into a meeting.
Sure, tablets can be the glowing stars at a conference room table: They let you look up results or give quick PowerPoint presentations on the spot. But pecking at the screen while someone else is talking -- even if you're just taking notes -- looks rude. Stick with pen and paper for note-taking unless the rest of your co-workers have gone digital, too.
Stop plunking it in front of your child as if it were a mesmerizing electric babysitter.
And while you're at it, call social services on these parents. Seriously, has this kid never seen a book?!