Tips for Telephone Safety

With voice mail and caller I.D., your children need not risk answering calls from strangers, says Mary Matthews, LCSW, director of family programs at Children's Memorial Hospital in Illinois. "You never know what situation your child might encounter," Matthews explains.

For kids who do answer unscreened calls, these are the rules:

  • Never tell callers you are home alone. If an adult is requested, simply say that the person cannot get to the phone right now.
  • Never give your name to callers.
  • Never give out any information about yourself or the family, including names of family members or your address.
  • Never repeat your telephone number to callers, even those who suspect they have dialed a wrong number.

In emergencies, children should know how to phone for help, says Ellen Hollon, director of child life at Children's Medical Center of Dallas. Children who are too young to learn to call 9-1-1 can be taught to press zero and ask the operator for help, Hollon suggests.

Corinne Gregory, a working mom in Seattle, also advises keeping one or two basic home telephones - not cordless phones that have to be switched on - that your children won't have trouble using in an emergency.

©, used with permission.

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