Review telephone rules and safeguards

telephone is your child's way to keep connected with you, other adults, and friends when you are not at home. Be sure your child knows how to use the phone. Does he know how to use "call waiting" if you have it? And the answering machine if you use one? If your phone has a speed-dial option, teach your child how it works. Program it so that your child can contact you and other important people quickly

You will want to coach your child so he knows what to say when he answers the phone. Your child should never tell a caller he is home alone. Instead, your child should say, "My mom/dad/parents can't come to the phone right now. May I take a message?" If the caller sounds strange or threatening, your child should immediately hang up and call you or your nearby contact person. If the caller continues to bother your child, instruct your child to call 911 or the number for your local police.

The telephone is your child's friend, but you may need to help him learn to observe limits about using it. You don't want him to stay on too long, in case you are trying to call home. Or in case he has homework to get done.

Decide if you want to have a "phone-in" policy, where your child calls you or your backup person as soon as he arrives home so you know he is safe. Many children feel more secure if they are able to check in. You will also need to make clear what the rules are about your child calling you at work.

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