My children’s safety is obviously my utmost priority and I had a thought the other day that prompted me to write this as soon as possible, “Do my kids know how to call 911?.” It’s a simple question, or so I thought. They know the number. I can ask them what to do in an emergency and my seven-year-old absolutely knows who to call. He even knows how to walk to his grandma’s house if it was absolutely necessary, but does he know how to call 911, or anyone for that matter?
Think about it. How many of you still have a landline at home? When I was a kid, it was simple. Pick up the communal telephone (that was on the kitchen wall, and later portable) and call. Until now, I hadn’t realized that I needed to teach my children how to use a phone.
Chances are high that our younger ones have tablets, not smartphones, and even higher that they haven’t had to make a real phone call before—it’s all video calling on FaceTime or Facebook Messenger. Because technology has come so far in my life-time, I really didn’t register how much more complicated making a phone call has gotten.
The process has changed, and though our little ones learn so quickly, using a phone is something we need to go out of our way to cover, even if they aren’t ready to start chatting with their friends all night. Now you have to dive into your phone—sometimes a few menus deep—before you can even teach them how to dial.
The first issue is that some of us require locks on our phones. In order to have my company email accessible on my device, it needs to be locked. Whether that is a code, fingerprint or facial recognition is up to me. On my current phone, the OnePlus 10 Pro, I use a fingerprint sensor, but obviously, kids can’t do that on their own. Swiping on the screen brings up the pin pad. Usually this is four digits, which should be easy to remember for most children, but the OnePlus 10 Pro requires six. Just more hurdles.
“For once, technology has affected our children’s safety negatively, and we aren’t just talking about online safety.”
The good news, though, is that most phones have an “Emergency Call” button that allows you to bypass the phone’s security for emergencies only. However, even getting to this can be tricky. For most devices, you need to first wake the phone by pressing the side button or double tapping the screen, then swipe to activate the pin pad, and then press the emergency call button…all while in crisis.
I feel like even I would struggle with this in an emergency situation, so how can I expect my seven-year-old to do it? I asked a few friends with children, and they also didn’t realize how complicated something that was so simple when we were young had gotten. For once, technology has affected our children’s safety negatively, and we aren’t just talking about online safety.
Luckily, there are a few options for how to teach your child to make an emergency call. You can absolutely take them through the steps above. The older they are, the easier it will be. I also heard from a few friends that schools have been looking after our children’s safety and teaching them different ways to call someone in case of an emergency.
Another suggestion was using Alexa or Google Assistant in an emergency. Unfortunately, after looking into this, you cannot have your smart assistant call 911 without setting it up via a landline, which, as we discussed, is lacking nowadays. I’m sure they have their reasons, but I think it could be a real game changer for families if this were possible.
What you can do, however, is teach your children how to make a phone call to one of your contacts on your smart home device. At home, I have Google Home and an Echo Dot in my bedroom, the Polk React Soundbar in my living room, and the Echo Show 5 in the kids room. Wherever they are, they have access to a smart assistant.
If that is the case in your home, my best suggestion to ensure your children’s safety would be to teach them one or two safe people that are contacts on your phone (in case one does not answer), and exactly how you have them named on your phone (their grandma might be mom in your phone, etc). That way, they can easily say “Alexa, call grandma” and she can take it from there.
There. Technology saves the day in a very roundabout way when it comes to our children’s safety. There are so many ways we think about technology and our children’s safety on a regular basis, from baby monitors to security cameras to online safety. It is so important as parents that we consider things from all sides, and prepare our kids for anything—even in the case of an emergency. I hope this taught you something new today, because it kept me up all last night!