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Friday, September 7, 2012

Phone Use Tips for Preschoolers: 9-1-1 Emergency

Once your child reaches about 3 years of age and older, it's important to work on telephone skills. Spend a little time with the child practicing the phrases they should say when using a real telephone such as:
--"Hello, may I ask who's calling?"
--"This is <name>, may I talk to Grandma?" (or whomever they are looking for)
--"May I give the phone to my mom?"
--"Thank you for calling!"

When they turn 2 years, you can practice using pretend phones but conversations will be limited. Once they get closer to 3 and 4 years, you'll see their memory increase and they will suddenly be able to memorize phrases like this better.

An additional important step in teaching telephone use that is appropriate for kids as they reach school age is the ability to call 9-1-1.  Reinforce the importance of not calling this number unless it's "an emergency"; then talk about what defines "an emergency".

I read an article in our local paper recently that gave a variety of tips. Here is a summary of what they talked about:

Tips That Preschoolers Need to Know About 9-1-1
1. Teach your child HOW to hold and use your phone.
Have them hold the phone without touching their cheek to the speaker since that can muffle their voice.
For cell phones, walk them through how to turn on, dial, and send the call.

2. Role play the narrative that will probably be given by a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
Adult: Ask the child to pretend to dial 9-1-1. Then pretend to be the dispatcher, "Hello, this is 9-1-1, what is your emergency?"
Child: "Hello. My mommy cut her leg off. We need help." (or whatever you and your child deem as the pretend emergency)
Adult: "Okay, and what is your name and address." ...then work with the child to memorize these key items.

3. Then practice and practice your home phone number!
We move every couple of years but my husband's cell phone has been the same for 15 years so we've worked with our oldest to memorize that number.  Techincally, my husband is not with my children most of the week due to his work schedule, but in the case of an emergency, we wanted to choose a number that is always going to reach someone and not an answering machine!

FYI -- A lot of phone companies include cell phone trackers that can be used by police when 9-1-1 is called. (I know ours applies but only when we are within our metro area; not in the rural cities.) They may be able to track your location in the case that the child cannot report your physical location. But, even when traveling, work with your child to recall where they are and important locations such as city and state of wherever they may go (home, grandma's house, where you go on errands, etc).