Kids, Phone Skills, and Phone Etiquette

“These kids today,” I found myself kermudgingly thinking, “don’t know how to use the phone.”

And by that I mean

1. Kids don’t know how to make a phone call on phones. Really. I don’t mean rotary phones, I mean CELL PHONES. To many, it’s an entertainment machine, not a communication tool And this is an issue when it comes to safety and 911. TEACH YOUR KIDS HOW TO MAKE A CALL, not just open up games. At least how to call 911.
(And here’s why I even still have a land line.)
2. Kids do not know phone etiquette. They’ve never had to practice it. Many young kids today have never had a phone conversation that didn’t involve the visual aspect.

I get not LIKING to use the phone. My oldest takes after me in this way. Part of it for me is that much time must be spent on niceties when I’m often in a rush and just want the INFO I need. Selfish, eh? The other aspect for my kids, I believe, is they feel put on the spot. But as they get older, I make them make phone calls to get the information they need. It’s just part of life.

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How are YOUR kids on the phone?

Mine still need reminders, even as teenagers. Things like:

  • Wait a moment for the connection.
  • Identify yourself. Yes, most people have Caller ID but that doesn’t always accurately tell who is actually speaking at the moment.
  • Go the extra step! If someone asks if dad is there. Don’t just say, “yes” or “no.” Answer and then ask, “Would you like to speak to him?” or “May I take a message?”
  • What about taking messages? A lost art! Repeat information back for accuracy.
  • OR, when LEAVING a message, repeat information for the message receiver’s ease. And do so slowly.
  • Don’t forget to leave your number on the message, too!

Beyond some of these basic phone skills are the social skills that go with having a phone conversation. Having a non-visual phone call is about CONVERSATION and FOCUS. It’s also about building RELATIONSHIPS.

I recently came across some video of my oldest at 2 or 3 years old. She was on the phone with a grandparent and basically acting out the entire munchkin scene and song from The Wizard of Oz! OK, not exactly a conversation. But still – she was engaging with a grandparent, one on one. She was sharing something of interest. She was listening for and to the responses.

Non-screen phone calls require the child to give singular attention to the person on the other end. They require focus on the words and sounds. They require dedicated conversation to one topic. They are less likely to be distracted by something on screen that shifts the focus of the conversation. Screen-free callers are also less likely to bring distractions TO the screen. All of this puts the attention on the CONVERSATION and, then, the verbal skills they are trying to build.

In the spirit of the conversation and relationship building, consider what is needed to focus on the other person:

  • Don’t make calls during meals. If I have to answer the phone, I try to leave the table so as not to distract the other diners and the focus on the meal.
  • Sit in a quiet area to talk. Maybe even go to another room.
  • Don’t talk in front of the TV Screen. This is for the other viewers’ sakes and for your own focus.
  • Try to JUST talk. BIG struggle for me when I’m busy. But I find I can’t focus very well (could be because I didn’t have a phone when I was little so those particular multi-tasking brain connections were never made?).

And, these days, grandparents and other family members might also need this kind of forced focus. There are plenty of adults with poor phone skills, too!

Phone and social skill aren’t developed overnight. It takes years of modeling and practicing. But if young children today never see this modeled or get to practice, those important skills will come very late, if at all.

How do you cultivate phone skills and etiquette in your children? I welcome comments!

Ready to get your kid a phone? You might be interested in checking out:

The HUGE savings Ting can offer. I spend about $140 for five smart phones and unlimited data!
My detailed Ting review about the company and my savings with them.
Why I still have a landline – and you should, too!

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