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"Must Use" Parenting Tool: Nine Point Checklist For Proper Phone Etiquette

Feb 10, 2008
Parents learn quickly that telephones are like magnets to children. With multiple cell phones and land lines ringing, children have greater access to phone communication than ever before, and are more fascinated than ever with their use.

Per Spiderman's creed, "With great power comes great responsibility," children need to be taught early that the telephone is not a toy and that proper behavior is a must for anyone who uses the phone. Parents should always model courteous phone etiquette.

The check list below is a good parenting tool to ensure that children use the phone properly.

Ask to use the phone

To maintain boundaries, it is a good idea to require children to ask before using the phone. Very small children can be tempted to hit the redial button over and over, annoying the person on the receiving end. Older children can while away hours chatting, before parents become aware.

Answer the phone properly

Parents should equip children with a polite greeting for answering the phone. "Hello, may I help you?" or "Hello, who is this speaking please?" are polite salutations and not abrupt like, "Yeah? Who's this?" Unless the child knows who is calling, he should refrain from identifying himself. If the child knows the caller, (the phone is handed to him, or he recognizes the number displayed on the caller I.D. feature) he should say politely, "Hello, this is "Dan"."

When a child answers the phone and it is for someone else, he should politely say, for example, "Yes my mom is here, one moment please while I get her," and always hand the phone to the requested person. Yelling, "MOM, PHONE!" is disrespectful to caller and call recipient and should be curbed immediately. Suspending phone privileges is an effective method of reinforcing ground rules; time out from phone use gives kids an appreciation for the privilege.

Responding to a wrong number appropriately is crucial. Kids should never give personal information of any kind to unknown callers, including their own names or the names of others in the household. A respectful and smart response to a wrong number is, "I am sorry you have the wrong number," and hang up.

Conversing with a stranger over the phone is dangerous. People who prey on children know how to manipulate them into giving personal information. Parents should teach kids to hang up immediately and without saying, "goodbye," if the caller makes them feel even remotely uncomfortable. After hanging up, the child should alert a parent immediately.

Older children, home alone, should never let a strange caller know. Parents can train children to have an excuse ready, "I am sorry but my father is busy and can't come to the phone right now. Goodbye." The child should hang up immediately without further discussion. Screening calls is an even safer idea, kids can pick up only those calls where they recognize the caller's I.D.

Use a polite salutation when placing a call

A child placing a call should identify himself using his full name, "Hello, this is John Jones, is Miranda at home?" is a polite greeting.

Speak so the listener can understand

Kids should be told to use an "indoor voice," and encouraged to speak into the receiver clearly, without mumbling or yelling. Very young children sometimes go silent or trail off when on the phone, so parents should be ready to encourage the conversation or take over. Parents should make sure that the caller is amenable to speaking to a small child, as adorable as kids are, not everyone responds positively to teaching kids to use the phone.

Establish time limits

Phone use is a privilege and parents need to set clear boundaries. Most families don't allow calls to go out or come in between 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night.

Set a reasonable amount of time for children to be on the phone. Preschoolers up through elementary age children are easy to limit, but parents need to be very clear and consistent with time limits for preteens and teens. It is appropriate to take a time out from the phone during the homework block, while eating dinner, or during family time. Cell phone use and text messaging should be monitored to ensure activity doesn't get out of hand.

Finish the call politely

Little children should be taught to say, "goodbye," at the end of the call, not to just toss the phone down or hang up. As children mature they should finish all phone calls with a polite remark such as, "It was great speaking with you, Grandma." The phone should always be returned to its designated home by the person who used the phone last.

Be respectful when others are using the phone

Eavesdropping, creating background noise, and speaking to or distracting a person who is on the phone, are all impolite behaviors that should not be tolerated. In addition, pushing phone buttons, playing with the cord, picking up an extension and grabbing at the phone are off limits behaviors that should be "nipped in the bud."

It is difficult for very small children to understand that they must be quiet when a parent is taking a call. Cutting calls short or planning important calls when children are napping, occupied by the other parent, or engaged in an activity, helps ensure less stressful phone calls. Parents can let older children know beforehand that they need quiet while they are on the phone.

Take a message please

Children of about age eight and up can take a basic message. Paper and pens should be placed near phones and kids can be coached to ask for whom the call is for, who is calling, and the telephone number where the person can be reached. The child should read the information back to the caller to ensure accurate content.

Leave a clear message

Even small children can be taught to leave a clear and concise message with their name and telephone number.

The increase in telephone usage over the past decade has magnified the need for good telephone skills. Most people have a telephone on their person at all times. In addition, predators have gotten very adept at infiltrating homes and communicating with children. Completing the above checklist will assure parents that their children are politely and safely using the phone.
About the Author
Elena Neitlich is owner of Moms On Edge at http://www.momsonedge.com. When you're tired of battling with potty training, bedtime and other behavioral issues, find clever parenting tools and products proven to quickly help solve the most common parenting challenges in creative, fun ways.
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