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A Mom’s Quick Guide to Teaching 21st Century Phone Etiquette

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I think I was 11 when my mom let me talk on the phone with my friends for the first time. This was back in the day, when we had landlines and only one person could talk on the phone at a time. Well, times have changed! Our kids have more opportunities than we ever did to call a friend, which means it’s time for a lesson in phone etiquette for kids.

But this ain’t your mama’s phone etiquette. Or would it be their mama’s in this case? Either way, when I look at the messages they’re sending and watch them interact with friends, it becomes abundantly clear that kids are making some mistakes that could come back to bite them (or us). They need some guidance. If your kids are phone newbies too, you’ve got to lay down these 7 rules.

1. When in doubt, text before you call.

You don’t want to have the kid who repeatedly calls another family during dinner or after everyone has gone to bed. Teach your child that not everyone is on the same schedule as your family, and to use wisdom to decide if it’s a good time to call. If a child isn’t sure, sending a quick text to check is the courteous thing to do.

2. Use emojis while texting to convey tone.

When teaching phone etiquette for kids, emojis are a gift! In a day and age when people prefer texting over calling, conveying tone can be difficult. A simple winking face goes a long way.

3. If they don’t pick up, don’t freak out.

Think about how frustrating it is when you want to talk to a friend and she doesn’t pick up. Now imagine that frustration for an 11-year-old. My daughter was bored out of her mind and wanted someone to chat with, but her friend simply wasn’t available. Instead of moving on, my daughter laid her disappointment on thick by leaving several video messages for her friend. Let your child know a simple message—“Call me when you get the chance!”—will suffice.

4. Be ready to talk to an adult.

Even though they don’t happen as often as they used to, phone calls with adults are great opportunities for kids to practice manners. Even if your child’s friend has his or her own phone, the friend’s mom or dad might pick up, so your kid needs to be ready. My oldest son used to freeze up when an adult was on the other line. He would get embarrassed and wouldn’t say anything! Giving him a few lines that are easy to remember taught him how to talk to adults comfortably when he didn’t know what to say.

5. Don’t be idle.

Tell your children to get off the phone if they or their friends are doing something else. Admittedly, this is less of an etiquette thing and more of a personal pet peeve. My son will be in the middle of playing video games and his friend on the other line is watching cartoons. Just hang up and call each other back when you’re both in the mood to talk.

6. Warn others if you’re video chatting.

Woe to the mom who is walking around her own home singing at the top of her lungs (or worse) without realizing she’s on camera. I hope I am not the only person who has been caught in this situation! Teach your kids to give the people around them a heads up that there’s another person “in the room.”

7. Actually say “bye.”

We would walk in the room and ask our kids if they were still chatting on the phone. Then they would realize they had been idle on the phone for a while. They’d tell us no and then just hang up! Teaching them the right way to end a call sounds simple, but it’s a crucial skill for courteous phone etiquette for kids.

Looking for more? Here are 10 other manners to teach your kids today.

What are some rules you’ve set to manage your kids’ calls and texts?


If my phone rang and you answered it, how would you greet the person on the other end?

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