Teaching Phone Etiquette to Your Kids: Four Universal Rules of the Phone

Phone etiquette

In this age of texting, DM-ing, and whatever other methods there are of sending a message to someone I probably don’t know about, talking on the phone has fallen by the wayside. I grew up in the 1980s and spent a lot of time on the phone during my preteen and teen years. The phone was my lifeline to my friends. 

Just like many of you (I’m sure), I did the whole, pull-the-rotary-dial-phone-as-far-as-the-cord-would-reach-into-the-closet maneuver until I was fortunate enough to get a phone in my own bedroom, somewhere in the 1990s. I would talk to my friends on the phone for hours into the night. 

Get this: I even gracefully navigated calling a friend and not knowing if it would be them, a sibling or, the scariest of all, their parent who answered the phone! 

Hello, Mr. Lewis. This is Jenny. May I please speak with Jamie?” 

Once texting and email came into being, though, my talking on the phone greatly diminished. These days, I often have several text chains operating all day every day, connecting me to my friends, my family, and neighbors. As a result, my kids don’t often see or hear me talking on the phone. And, guess what has happened? As a result, they have absolutely zero phone etiquette. 

As I’m sure is the same for your children, from the time my kids were babies, if given an iPhone, iPad, or other tablet, they instinctively knew how to swipe to get the results that they were looking for. By the age of four or so, they were both proficient at all types of games and math apps. Now, they both have devices on which they can text friends, and they do a fair amount of that to stay in contact, but if someone (namely, a grandparent) calls and wants to speak to them on the phone, extreme awkwardness ensues because they don’t know how to properly talk on the phone. 

So, I’ve had to have some phone-talking tutorials with my kids lately, and here are the things that I’ve tried to teach them about talking on the phone. 

Maybe your kids could use some tips, too:

  • Use appropriate greetings and closures. I had to actually teach my kids to say “hello” when answering the phone and “bye” before hanging up. I also had to explain not to nod “yes” or “no,” instead of speaking when talking on the phone. 
  • When calling someone, don’t assume that the person you’re calling to speak with is the one who is going to answer. Be prepared to speak clearly and respectfully to whomever answers and make it clear to with whom you’d like to speak. 
  • Keep calls brief and respectful. I once had to break up a painfully long and awkward phone call between my daughter and a friend, in which my daughter wasn’t speaking, but only making a weird “meep” sound to fill the silence. 
  • Don’t call too early or too late in the day (unless it’s an emergency). The times that your family feels are appropriate and inappropriate to make and receive phone calls is up to you, but make sure your kids are respectful of other family’s schedules as well.

As a kid growing up with the phone practically glued to my ear, it’s so strange to me that my kids don’t have any kind of phone etiquette, but this is the world that we live in. Phones aren’t used for just talking. Don’t get me wrong; I’m super grateful that I have other ways of connecting with people that don’t involve talking on the phone, but it certainly surprised this child of the ’80s when I realized that I needed to teach my kids how to speak properly on it.

What phone etiquette have you taught your kids? Share in the comments!

Jenny is a 40-something, married mother of two (Anna, 2007 and Jack, 2009), who migrated to the Hill Country after doing a 14 year stint in Houston. When Jenny isn’t walking her slightly neurotic (and completely beloved) rescued Weimaraner, she enjoys writing, making to-do lists, and folding laundry (and sarcasm). Jenny holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi, and completed graduate coursework in Guidance and Counseling. She is a freelance writer who writes a weekly pet column for a Houston newspaper, and is a contributor at Dog Friendly San Antonio, New Braunfels Monthly and San Antonio Woman, as well as assorted other publications. You can also find her on Instagram (introvertsguidetosobriety). Favorite Restaurant: Bohanan's Favorite Landmark: The Alamo (duh) Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Wurstfest (not technically SAT, but closer to Jenny's stomping grounds).