Kids Calling 911: What Do You Do When There's No Landline?

Linda Sharps
Toddlers & Preschoolers
26
I was watching a movie the other night and there was a scene where a small girl—about kindergarten-aged, I'd guess—picked up a ringing phone and politely said, "Hello?" 

Totally normal everyday scene, right? Except for the things that were so incredibly exotic about it. The little girl, so proper and able to actually field a request and get her parents, instead of belching into the phone and maybe rubbing it on her butt then flinging it randomly out the front door like my feral children would probably do.

The bizarre spiraling cordlike thing that connected the headset to the ... what was that thing? Some sort of talk-phone-base made of plastic and tied to the wall. And of course the ring! Instead of emitting a series of annoying electronic bloops and bleeps that were meant to sound like "Let's Get It Started," it just went ... brrrrrriiiiing.

So retro!

Anyway, seeing that made me think about how our kids will never pick up a ringing family phone like the girl in the movie, because we don't have a landline. We both have cell phones, and that's it. The kids talk on our phones occasionally via speaker, like when we call the grandparents or one of us calls the other, but a randomly ringing unattended phone that's available for general use? It's gone the way of the dodo, at least in our house.

Which led me to another thought, which sort of stopped me in my mental tracks: what about emergency calls? What if one of our kids needed to call 911? 

I talked about this with my husband, who said he guessed our oldest boy could use a cellphone. I pointed out that our phones are never easily located, they're usually stuffed in a pocket or buried in a purse or sitting on a nightstand. I also mentioned that the iPhone, while featuring a lovely user interface, is not exactly pre-K-friendly.

"Oh, sure it is!" said my husband, who then tried to walk our 5-year-old through the process of making a call.

"So first you push the home button, which is ... no, it's down there ... okay, push that button, and now you'll get to a—well, uh, looks like I had an app open, so ... an app? Well, it's a—never mind, you just push the home button again ... remember, it's down there ... okay, now you want to find the little picture of a phone, so ... just swipe the screen ... uh, swipe, like this ... and now ..."

So, yeah. In the case of, say, masked gunmen entering the house, our kid would have to first run all over the place looking for the phone (already an impossible task, since this is the same child who spends 10 minutes each day looking for his shoes, which are ALWAYS in the front entryway), then somehow unlock the screen, navigate to the phone function, then correctly tap out 9-1-1. 

I did some searching around online and I found some cell phone marketed as being kid-friendly, but they seem like full-featured phones for the tween set. What I'd like is a simple phone with exactly one OH SHIT button and some kind of minimal service plan, but I'm not sure there is such a thing.

Are any of you in a similar situation? Have you come up with a backup plan for giving kids access to 911, or did you tell them to run to a neighbor's house in case of emergency, or what?

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