Is it okay not to answer the phone or to hang up while a person is still talking?The answer is, yes! It is important for parents to teach children how to answer the phone properly and still protect our private information. Knowing which information to give out or keep secret can be tricky for a child and role playing with them can help build confidence in their abilities.
Manners and Respect
Teach children to speak politely to callers on the phone but not to give out any personal information. Any important information should be provided by parents or approved prior. Relatives, doctors and many people you do business with should already have any information they may need. They should not expect that type of information from a child.
If anyone pressures a child for information they should not feel badly about hanging up. Anyone trying to coax information from a child is not to be trusted. Instruct children to keep calls brief; criminals are cunning, charming and can sound quite convincing over the phone.
Do Not Give Out: Cell phone numbers, full or maiden names, addresses, credit card or bank account numbers, parents’ or children’s daily schedules, birth dates, ages, locations of parents or any relatives’ information. You may have other information you want to add to this list.
Identity thieves need only a few pieces of information to open accounts or shop at your expense. When trying to get information, if they do not get the answers they are looking for they will ask for it again. Any repeat questions are a huge red flag.
It can help children to have sentences printed and left by the phone for children who may forget what to say – or not say. If no adult is home and children must answer the phone the child can simply say “Hello.” Instead of saying a parent is not home, children should be instructed to tell callers: “Mom (Dad) is busy at the moment; if you give me your name and number I have her (him) call you back.” When the child hangs up, they can call the parent and relay the information.
Answer the phone! Not answering the phone may signal to a criminal it is alright to enter because no one is home.
Caller ID is a wonderful tool that can tell if the person calling is someone your child may know. Unfortunately, it does not tell you if your mother’s uncle Bud’s nephew is honest or trustworthy. Tell children to treat some relatives as you would any stranger. Relatives that frequent your home are probably safe to talk with. Discuss with your children what and how much to share and with whom.
Sexual abuse and molestation statistics show many victims knew or were related to their abuser. Statistics estimate many incidents of sexual abuse and molestation go unreported.
Each phone should be equipped with a pen or pencil and paper on which to write messages. When taking a message for a parent or family member instruct children to write clearly the name of the caller, the phone number and a time it would be good to call. When children are finished, tell them to repeat the information back to the caller to confirm it is correct.
Emergency 911 Calls
Many have seen reports of children saving a parent or relative’s life by calling 911 and getting help on the scene in time. Please talk with children and explain the difference between legitimate 911 calls and non-emergency calls. Being alone and hearing a noise is not an emergency. Someone breaking into your home is a true 911 emergency. If Grandpa will not wake up after shaking him, that can be an emergency 911 call too. Certain life-threatening illnesses or conditions should be known to family as well as steps needed to deal with the medical crisis.
Teach children to give their name and correct address and apartment number to 911 operators. The operator will also want the phone number of the person calling 911.
Tell children that your landline phone number and other information may show up when calls are placed to 911 in your area. If they call the number it is important to remain on the line in order to tell the operator if there is or isn’t an emergency situation.
Cell phone services are not uniform in all areas. Please speak with your cell phone service provider for specific details.
National Do Not Call Registry
If your phone number is getting unwanted calls from telemarketers you can register your number on the Do Not Call Registry. Currently, any number registered with the Do Not Call Registry will remain active permanently. When you receive a call from a telemarketer you should get the name of the company and the number they called from and tell them to put your number on their Do Not Call list. You will want to file a complaint each time you receive a telemarketing call.
Prank or Crank Calls
While prank calls are the stuff of legend it is important to advise against them. Technology is such now that it is almost impossible to hide your identity. Playing a joke on a friend is different from harassing a senior citizen for that matter. Please discourage children from taking part in any annoying prank or harassing calls that may be considered bullying. These calls can be filed with the police department.
Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her at her contact page.