I recently traveled with family back to Los Angeles to visit my mom. It was really nice to see her as well as my brother and his daughter, and the kids got a huge kick out of seeing the West Coast. For a young child growing up in rural Vermont, spending some time in L.A. can be quite the experience.

I was also really happy that our kids got to meet their cousin for the first time. I myself hadn't seen her since she was a baby. Now she's a teenager, so you can imagine how much she's changed. One thing that really struck me, however, was how plugged in she was, all of the time. Our kids were green with envy at all the latest gadgets that she has in her possession, which she was kind enough to let them play with (yes, we're the mean parents that don't give their kids the latest gadgets).

Now you can call me old-fashioned, my kids do it all the time, but I'm a big believer in engagement. I find that when you are in the presence of other people, even just one person for that matter, it's good etiquette to be engaged with that other person and pay attention to them. This is especially true when children interact with adults (I know, old-fashioned).

When it came to my niece, I thought it was poor etiquette to be glued to her cell phone all the time, especially when we were eating at a restaurant, but I only had to look over at my brother to see he was doing the same thing, and therein lies the problem. Kids today are completely tuned into their gadgets because their parents are doing the same thing.

The reality is, unless there are life or death circumstances and that is rarely the case, those messages are not that important — and even if they are, they can probably wait 30 minutes to be answered. With that in mind, I think it's not a bad idea for parents to teach their kids a little high tech etiquette. This doesn't mean forbidding them from having gadgets, because let's face it, they are an inextricable part of modern life. It does, however, mean exercising a little authority and teaching your kids some common sense guidelines to using technology that don't have to be extreme, but might go a long way to teaching them some good manners and the proper way to socialize.

1. Be a parent first, then a friend.

Restricting your child's use of their gadgets may earn you their scorn, but remember that you're a parent and not a best friend. Teaching good life lessons sometimes means making unpopular choices.

2. Set the right example.

Your kids will take your guidance more to heart if you practice what you preach. Plus, how can you expect them to give you their undivided attention if you don't do the same?

3. Remind them and yourself that it's not that important.

Again, unless there are dire consequences, most digital correspondences can wait, which will make retrieving them more of a treat when you do.

4. Force the issue.

You don't have to be mean or aggressive, but sometimes kids, especially teenagers, need a little assertive guidance in knowing the difference between right and wrong.

5. Make eye contact.

In the world of smartphones, people don't look each other in the eye anymore. Teach your kids that having a conversation means engaging them visually as well as socially, which can make it more enjoyable.

6. Let them know their presence matters.

This means listening to what they have to say and, more importantly, conveying that you are hearing them. Unfortunately, this requires that you put your own smartphone away.

7. Leave the phones in the car.

When you go to a restaurant or social engagement, just leave the phones in the car. You can always slip out and check your messages, but while you are socializing, give them your undivided attention.

8. Encourage others to follow suit.

As a parent, set the right example by telling other adults what you are trying to accomplish. In most instances they should understand, and if they don't, find someone else to talk to.

I understand the appeal of technology, and know that digital communication is a fact of modern life, but that doesn't mean old-fashioned values like good manners and polite interaction have to be thrown out the window. If anything, it is more important than ever for us to teach these things to our kids, which is ultimately our jobs as parents.

In other words, technical etiquette truly is a family affair.