Study Reveals Kids Don’t Know How To Dial 911 On A Smartphone: 5 Things Every Parent Needs To Teach Their Child In The Digital Age

Teaching Kids Safety

Teaching Kids Safety

The Problem

Pre-schoolers are typically taught how to dial 911, but they’re often not shown how to do so on a smartphone.65763_9605

Knox County Emergency 911 said they receive about 700,000 calls for help each year. Of those calls, it’s estimated 85 percent are from cell phones.

Things are not the same as they used to be. When I was a kid I remember getting taught how to dial 911 in case of an emergency. It was easy. Pick up any one of the phones around the house and just dial the number. The only hard part was just remembering the number.


How Times Have Changed


According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey, during January through June 2012, more than half of Americans were living in a household that used only or mostly mobile phones. Of the more than 20,000 households interviewed, 35.9 percent were wireless only. 15.9 percent had a landline, but rarely used it.


It’s Not As Easy As It Used To Be


Think about all the steps involved in dialing 911 now compared to a decade ago.

Step 1: Locate the phone first. It used to be that there was always a phone on the wall or on a table somewhere in the house. And it stayed there right!? Remember that? Well, nowadays just locating a smartphone can be a challenge for kids.

Is it in mom’s purse?

Dad’s pocket?

Thrown around on the bed somewhere?

Or is little Timmy playing Temple Run on it somewhere?

You get the point. 

Step 2: Unlocking The Phone: Most people have a safety lock or password of some kind on their phone. At the very least you have to swipe to even get to the main screen.

Step 3: Finding The Keypad: Ok so they made it to the main screen but now how do they get to the keypad to actually dial 911? The keypad doesn’t just show up. You have a home screen to deal with. Or maybe you have a browser window, YouTube, or Facebook app still up.

Step 4: Another Button To Call: Say they make it to the dial pad. Your still not done after dialing 911. Now you have to hit send or call. Yeah it all sounds simple to us but think about it from a small child’s point of view.

It’s certainly not as easy as it used to be. As parents we are going to have to spend a little more time teaching kids how to stay safe and be prepared in case of emergencies. Here’s some help.


5 Things Every Parent Should Teach Their Child


1. How To Dial 911 On A Smartphone

Obviously as you can see it is important to teach your child how to navigate the basic features of your smartphone. They are going to need to know how to unlock it and get to the dial pad. I found an awesome app that might help. It’s a 911 / emergency phone simulator from DialSafe.


The DialSafe App is FREE.  It is very easy to use and also allows children to learn how to call other important numbers such as mom’s cell phone, Dad’s office phone, Grandma’s house phone, etc. Pretty cool right?


Besides the phone simulator, there is a learning section that teaches kids some valuable lessons about phones, using them, phone safety and more.


Another service worth checking out is called SafeTrec. Safe Trac puts a Panic Button on your cell phone. If in danger, you just press it to instantly send a text and email to your friends, and their 24/7 Response Call Center. The call center connects all to a live conference call and, if needed, routes the emergency directly to the nearest 911 responder with GPS location and vital info. This service comes with a monthly fee though. You can check it out here.

2. How To Recognize Their Surroundings

The problem with calling 911 from a cell phone is that the response time may not be as quick. This is largely due to the fact that the emergency response team has a more difficult time pinpointing your exact location. It is important to teach children to recognize any type of landmarks or things they may be able to describe to a 911 operator. Give this a try with your kids and see what they say. Ask them if they can describe some things about their surroundings. Make it a practice to help them with this when you are out and about too.

3. Their Own Address

In addition to teaching kids how to use a cell phone, parents should make sure their child knows their address. It’s recommended the address is posted in several areas of the home and the child knows where to look in case they need to call 911. It’s shocking how many kids don’t know their real address.

4. Phone Numbers of Family or Friends

It’s a good idea to show kids how they can call Grandma and Grandpa or family friends in case of an emergency too. This can be tricky as well. Do you even know the phone numbers of your contacts? I don’t. I never actually dial anyone’s number anymore. I just navigate to their name and hit call. Make sure the kiddos know how to do this too.

5. When To Dial 911

It is important that kids know when to dial 911. They might have a completely different idea of what constitutes an emergency. Gilbert the fish flopping out of his bowl does not require a 911 call. Make sure they understand it is for serious matters only and it is never ok to joke when calling 911.




If you don’t already have one of these posted somewhere in your house I encourage you to download this free card – print it out and put it on your fridge or someplace else within close reach.

In Case of Emergency card




Hopefully you find these tips helpful and you spend some time teaching your little ones if you haven’t already.

Did I miss anything?

If you know of any other safety tips please share them in the comments below.

Oh and please share this with everyone you know. You never know who might need to read this. It just might save somebody’s life.




Teaching Kids Safety


  • Amy Hampton

    Reply Reply

    I teach in a self contained classroom for elementary school students with cognitive and social delays. We just talked about this exact problem with my 4th and 5th grade students. We had worked on knowing 911 and when to call and what to say when I realized that it isn’t a straight forward thing anymore. We had a big talk about what to do on a smartphone but I definitely want to look into the apps you were talking about. Thanks for bringing up this important topic!

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