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Phone Etiquette and Safety Guidelines for Children

Teaching your child phone etiquette and phone safety requires good sense and firm guidance. You want your children to learn how to communicate effectively, but you don't want them to take over the phone as their own personal property.

Safety is another consideration. Every child who is old enough to manage a phone should know how to dial 9-1-1 and stay on the line. Don't overlook your responsibility to teach your children when and how to dial 9-1-1.

Here are some suggestions regarding children, phone etiquette, and phone safety:

  • Don't inflict toddlers on others via the phone. When Grandma (or anyone else!) calls, don't put your 2-year-old on the line unless that person asks to speak to the child. You may think that it's cute, but Granny and others may not be thrilled to get an earful of silence or babbling when calling long-distance. Even if the call is local, remember that the person called to speak with you, not your child. Similarly, avoid prolonged conversations with your child while your caller waits (patiently or impatiently) on the other end of the line.
  • Discuss with other parents your desires regarding child-to-child calling times for preteens and teens. Establish the best time of day and a maximum duration for calls between kids, and then enforce the rules. Even though most kids have their own cell phones these days, the parents are still usually the ones who pay the bills and should have the final word in regard to when and for how long talking on the phone is appropriate.
  • Teach children how to take a message. If a child is old enough to answer the phone, the child is old enough to take a name and number and promise a callback.
  • Make sure that teenagers participate in equal access to telephones in the same way that they participate in equal dessert at dinnertime. Establishing a time limit for each call and a between-call time interval is fair. Otherwise, you won't receive incoming calls for anyone else in the house.
  • Don't worry if your Shoshanna dials up her friend Justin to arrange a meeting at the coffee shop. The old business about girls not calling boys has pretty much disappeared.
  • Examine your monthly telephone bills carefully. You may discover that one of your children is using the phone in a way that displeases you. Kids tell each other about little scams and pranks that they can play with the phone. Discuss exceptional charges and notations with the child.
  • If your child has her own line or cell phone, consider placing limits on it. Your telephone or wireless phone company can provide useful limits on a telephone to keep your children — and your phone bills — safe. For example, you can arrange to block all outgoing 900-number calls and all long-distance calls. In other words, the youngster can use the home telephone only for local calls. Purchasing a calling card for cell-phone use can also limit large phone bills.
  • Display positive cell-phone behavior with your children and teenagers. Remember, children learn by example.
  • Even if your children are old enough to stay home alone, it is still wise to ask them not answer the home phone when you're away. As an extra safety precaution, tell them to let the calls go to the answering machine or voice mail.
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