Family

How having a household phone line shapes children's manners

By: Ashley Posluns

Getty Images Author: Canadian Living Credits: Getty Images

Family

How having a household phone line shapes children's manners

By: Ashley Posluns
Along with cursive handwriting, VHS tapes and CD-ROMs, landline phones are fading out.

Studies have shown that there is a steady shift away from landline phone technology in favour of wireless services. According to the 2015 Communications Monitoring Report by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), 20.4% of Canadian households are subscribing exclusively to wireless services, compared to the 14.4% of those that subscribe to landline telephone services. This is a "big change from only ten years ago" when almost all Canadian households owned landlines.

For the households that do still own landline phones, the key reasoning is safety reasons—for house alarm systems or emergency calls. When the landline phone rings nowadays, it's more likely to be telemarketers than it is your family or friends.

The landline phone or "home phone" came with important educational lessons that we may not have realized at the time. Children had to learn phone manners, how to share and to respect their parents' rules. For Eric J. Parker, son of an anesthesiologist, phone manners were an important part of his upbringing. His mother taught him that he and his siblings had a "front-end role" in representing their family to the outside world by answering the phone with, "Parker residence. How can I help you?"

The landline phone also meant that children had to learn how to talk politely to adults. If they wanted to call a friend, for example, one of their parents might answer, causing them to lead a conversation that would be "a little bit uncomfortable, but manageable" and one that helped children learn conversation skills, according to Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist.

In 2014, the Financial Post reported that 66% of households in Canada led by people under the age of 29 relied on wireless services. It's plain to see that these services are destroying boundaries that were set by the landline phone as kids—and in many cases adults as well—are sleeping with, walking with, and eating meals with their cellphones. There is no more "My mom can't come to the phone right now. May I take a message?" or even making a reservation at a restaurant or an appointment with the doctor through a phone conversation.

Sherry Turkle
, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that when children overheard adults' phone conversations, it taught them "the nurturing work of adulthood" including booking appointments and planning activities. Now, she says, "all that work is done silently, by tapping on a keyboard."

The landline phone has been an important piece of technology for a long time and has done more than just keep people connected. It taught our children important lessons—ones that can't be replicated with today's wireless technology. 

For more on children's manners, check out this article on what to do when children lie.
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How having a household phone line shapes children's manners

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