Teens and the Phone: Old-School Parenting

An Amtrak Railfone booth.
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Let’s kick it old school, shall we?

I have so many posts about parenting and Twitter, parenting and Facebook, parenting and texting, parenting and cell phones…I realized I have very few about the phone.  You know? The real one in your kitchen or on the hall table.  It has that long dangly cord and rings every once in a while (usually during dinner when telemarketers love to call).

(Some) Teens still use the regular phone.  I thought I should write a few tips for parents on this topic, as I have many fond memories of arguing with my parents over my brother and my shared phone line.

1. Wait 10 Minutes

If you hear your child get off a phone call with a friend you might want to wait ten minutes or so until you ask them something/talk to them.  Ok, I know this sounds like weird advice, but the way I talked to my friends as a teenager was very different than the way I spoke with my parents (a good thing) also I often was hyper, upset, flirty, excited or some other teen emotion and did not want to talk t my parents right away.  If they did talk to me as soon as I hung up, it often felt like a pounce and I would snap at them or give them attitude.  So, give our kids a second to re-acclimate to home life.

2. Sharing is Good

I had to share a phoneline with my brother and sister and I hated every minute of it, but it was good.  It made me learn to share and respect his time and mine.

3. Turn Off the Ringer

In my house, my brother and my phoneline was upstairs between our two rooms in the hallway…it was about a 24 second sprint from the kitchen downstairs.  When we heard that phone ring the house would literally shake from us pounding up the stairs to get it at all hours.  We should have just learned to turn off the ringer when we went down.

4. Pretend You Cannot Pick It Up

Do NOT listen in on your kid’s calls.  Even if you need to tell them something like “hang-up” or “where is your lunchbox?”…don’t do it!  It is embarrassing for your kids, disrespects their privacy, teaches them they can do it to you and makes them begrudge you for it later.  Either leave them a note or ask them to hold on a second in person.

5. Remind Them of Call Waiting

If you have one family line, remind them they must get your call waiting and you get priority.

6. Have Strict Guidelines

Make sure phone on times and off times are well known to everyone.  Rules should be clear, less arguing later…or when Susie is having a really really big crisis with her boyfriend. Check out our contract.

7. Teach How to Use It

I don’t mean technologically…they can figure that out for sure!  Teach your kids how to take a message properly, how to answer the phone, how to say goodbye etc.  So many teens do not do this and it hurts them later in life or if and when they have to talk to adults.

8. Think About Cordless

My parents did NOT get us a cordless phone.  It made it so we either had to talk in the hallway or rope the cord under our doors.  Sneaky mom and dad…very sneaky. They could always know when we were on the phone that way…much harder to sneak a corded phone into bed late at night than a cordless phone.

This post is dedicated to Jessica Feldman because I am sure that if we had been in High School together we would have racked up quite a phone bill, and I never get to talk to her enough (and I am so not a phone person!)

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3 Responses to “Teens and the Phone: Old-School Parenting”

  1. Timothy Smith
    February 23, 2009 at 11:25 am #


    Thankss for the great post

    And also thank you for remembering us “old schoolers”. There are more of us out here than you think.

    And some that won’t admit it!

    I like being OLD SCHOOL. :):)

  2. virtual worlds for kids
    April 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    Very good advice :) It’s best to be respectful of your kids to earn their respect.

  3. Vanessa Van Petten
    April 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    thanks so much for reading!

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