"Hello, hello?" The little ones are still chattering and hold the building block to their ear, while the older ones hold the tinkling, flashing mobile phone. And most of all, of course, a real telephone.
Children are fascinated from a very early age by the fact that you can speak into a box and hear another person. And they observe in the adults: Such a mobile phone must be something incredibly important – the grown-ups hardly ever put it down.
That's why even small children often show little shyness when it comes to using the phone. However, despite all this being a matter of course, it is advisable to practice a few rules of conduct, especially with a view to the fact that more and more children have their own smartphone as early as primary school.
"Children should be introduced to telephoning step by step," advises media educator Iren Schulz from the "Look! What your child does with Media". The first step could be: The child is allowed to call the parents when the doorbell rings.
The next competence: dialing yourself, for example the stored number of the grandparents. Preschool age is usually a good time to allow children to pick up the handset or press the handset icon themselves when they receive a call.
Should they then report by name? "I'm undecided myself," Schulz admits. For Joachim Auer, who as a business coach practices making phone calls with young trainees, among other things, the answer is clear: "Later on in professional life, it is normal to report with your full name." That can therefore be taught to the children.
The media educator emphasizes that the more the children are allowed to use cell phones and telephones, the more important it is to have clear rules. That mom's work cell phone is taboo for them or that they only answer if the name of the caller is recognizable.
And hang up when a stranger is on the line. "The decisive question is always what the children reveal," says Iren Schulz: "So it must be made very clear that no photos may be sent to strangers."
Raising awareness of this is all the more important because photos and videos have been used much more naturally in everyday communication since the corona pandemic: Grandma was spoken to via zoom and there was a photo of the newborn cousin every day in the WhatsApp family group.
Even small children are very skilled in handling the devices. "It's easy to lose sight of the fact that of course they don't yet have an overview of the range of possibilities and dangers," the media educator points out and recommends a very clear comparison for child-friendly clarification: "We don't just open the door to every stranger either Apartment door."
An understanding of the risks is all the more important because children are often already holding their own smartphones at primary school age. A third of eight to nine-year-olds have their own device, and among ten to eleven-year-olds the proportion is 75 percent, according to a survey by the Bitkom industry association in 2019.
It's no longer just about making calls: people play games, chat, stream. Especially at the beginning, Iren Schulz recommends youth protection apps to restrict the functions of the device to make it childproof. "Privacy options should also be used restrictively."
She sees the greatest danger in the possibility that children can be contacted directly by strangers without the parents noticing, for example via game chats. Almost a quarter of all children and young people between the ages of eight and 18 have already been asked to make an appointment online by adults, according to a study carried out in 2021 on behalf of the State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia.
"But some chain letters that are distributed as voice messages via messenger apps also frighten children," says Schulz. And last but not least, it is important to learn how to deal with advertising calls – or, ideally, stop them straight away.
Banning everything in order to protect the children is not a solution, according to the media educator: “The older the children are, the easier it is to do without technical restrictions. The children are increasingly able to circumvent them anyway.” It is much more important to establish clear and transparent rules and routines from the start, to keep in touch, to be interested in the games and apps used by the children become - and above all, to be a role model yourself.
Instead of phoning, many young people prefer to communicate via messenger services such as WhatsApp - and then make an effort when they have to talk on the phone again in training or at work, observes business coach Joachim Auer. He has the impression that many young people find it difficult to “build a relationship on the phone”.
In a professional context, however, this is often precisely what is decisive: “Only those who win over their interlocutor remain positive in their memory. And that’s why they might get the coveted order, a lower price, or be able to talk about a complaint profitably.” Auer therefore also practices the art of small talk in his courses: “Many young people can no longer master it.”
This can be easily practiced at home with the family - using the same method that the media educator recommends: "It's always important to keep in touch," says Auer: "Parents and children can, for example, talk about things at the dinner table in the evening they experienced beautiful and positive things throughout the day.”
And without constantly looking at your cell phone. Because the correct use of mobile phones and telephones also includes the ability to leave them when they are not appropriate – on the subway, in restaurants and above all in personal conversations. However, this will only work if the parents also stick to it.
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