Family Phone: How To Keep Your Kids In Contact

It was back in 2011 that the Washington Post published an article mentioning that the number of cell phones in the United States had exceeded the number of residents, according to data from the CTIA Group. Taking a moment to look up from one’s own phone while out and about makes it plain that people of all ages are absorbed by the allure of their fancy smartphones, but has it come at the expense of one-on-one communication? Here are some ways to keep the kids in contact.

Group Text Messaging

These can be annoying when too many people are involved in the discussion but are perfect for family group communications. The fact that receivers of group texts cannot just stop them from coming in is useful when it comes to kids and family. Something funny is great for starting these discussions. Just remember to move side conversations to individuals. For example, if two parents and three kids are conversing in a group text about something funny that the cat did, Mom should not keep it going with instructions for Dad to pick up the dry cleaning. Side conversations should be sent to individuals privately.

Group Talk

This takes a director to make one happen, but group conversations can get families with older kids in college or otherwise out on their own talking again. It is so easy to get so wrapped up in one’s personal life that keeping in touch with family suffers. Three-way calling can support more than just three people. Each person on a three-way call can add another person to the call, so even big families can do this. It can be as noisy and hard to hear as sitting around the dinner table used to be, and that is part of its charm. Someone needs to arrange a time to call and initiate it. It can take some prodding to get done, but it should not be more difficult than it was to make a kid take the trash out or do the dishes when they were living at home. If they have to be guilted into it a little bit, that is okay. Keeping the communication lines open is important.

Unlimited Minutes and Prepaid Accounts

Most families have members who get by on varying budget amounts. Some may have a lot of disposable income while others are barely scraping by. Providing a phone with unlimited talk and text on a no contract SIM that is prepaid for a year is very helpful. This makes it so there is no worries about running out of minutes or having the phone disconnected for non-payment. The Pew Research Center found that 13 percent of Americans earning less than $30K per year were smartphone-dependent for communications while only one percent of those earning $75K per year relied solely upon a smartphone for Internet and other communications. There are annual prepaid SIM plans that provide steep discounts with no concerns of being disconnected for an entire year.

Landlines and VoIP

These are two options that can make a phone private again. The number most give to everyone from friends and family to bosses and bill collectors is their cellular phone numbers. Cell phones are dinging and buzzing most days with texts, instant messages, calls, email, social media notifications and even apps reminding people to participate. This is a constant vying for attention from the owners of the cell phones. A landline or VoIP phone number that is given only to people the owner wants to hear from can be refreshing and relaxing. There is no stress in needing to see who is calling as the only people that have the number are ones the owner wants to talk to. Plus, with no screens or interrupting tones advising of a new text, email or social media update, the conversation on an old style phone can be more relaxed.

Talk literally is cheap now. Cellular carriers used to charge extra when a plan’s minutes were exceeded. Now with the majority of cellular communications being text based, carriers offer unlimited minute plans for low monthly rates. Talking lets all the inflections of emotion, including the snorts and giggles of a real life, be heard and enjoyed. The quivering of a voice on the other end in tears can also be heard. Preserving the art of real conversation by voice should be preserved, but texting opens up a world of communication potential as well. Families should use them both to stay in touch.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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