A retro kids telephone and notebook

16 Things Our Children Will Never Understand

If you were born before the 2000s, you’ll likely be able to think of at least a few things that our children will just never understand. All of those little struggles that we had to go through when we were growing up that just don’t exist in today’s world.

Dial-up internet, the ‘family phone’, and letters in the post are all things that went hand in hand with growing up in the 90s, and oh how things have changed in recent years.

In the days before social media, mobile games, and YouTube, what did we do with ourselves? Do kids have it easier these days or do they just have too much of everything?

Here’s part 1 of Things Our Children Will Never Understand:

The Family phone

When I was growing up, the phone was the centre of the household. It was usually positioned in either the living room, or the kitchen, and as it was wired in, it didn’t move. This meant that every conversation you had was public, and if you didn’t want it to be, then you had to go to the phone box down the street.

As the phone was shared by every member of the family, you could always be sure that somebody would be using it when you absolutely needed to talk to your best friend.

Talking on the phone in the kitchen

This was such a nightmare. The kitchen phone was the most private one in our house, and even then, you could still be heard by just about everyone. For some reason, our phone was attached to the wall next to the sink, which meant that, unless I wanted to stand up for hours, I had to drag a dining room chair over to sit on instead.

Then add to that my Dad and my brother walking in every 5 five minutes and asking who I’m talking to or shouting random things down the phone, and it made for a very awkward conversation.

Phone boxes

When I was growing up, I spent so many hours standing in a phone box talking to my friends just so I could get some privacy. Phone boxes that were a 10 minute walk away from my house and that always smelt faintly of wee.

The conversation would be limited to how much change you had in your pocket unless you wanted to reverse the charges (but that was only meant for emergencies because it cost A LOT!)

There was nothing worse than the phone cutting out mid-sentence, and having to wait until the next day at school to carry on the conversation.

Telephone box, things our children will never understand
Image by luxstorm from Pixabay

Ringing your boyfriend and not knowing who was going to answer

In the days before mobile phones, we had to ring the household phone which everybody had access to. Even if you had arranged a specific time to ring somebody, you just knew that their Mum would answer first and you’d then have to have that awkward parent conversation before she’d pass the phone over.

Waiting for a phone call from said boyfriend and trying to get to the phone before your Dad did

How embarrassing was it when your Dad would get to the phone before you and you’d hear ‘There’s a boy on the other end for you’. You just knew that you’d be grilled about it the second you got off the phone.

People picking up the phone and listening in on your conversation

When you only had one phone line in the house, it was inevitable that someone would pick up one of the other phones and listen in on your conversation. Hearing that telltale ‘click’ meant that you both went silent until the other person gave up and put the phone down.

On the other hand, it was always fun to pick up the phone and listen to your parent’s conversations – until they heard you giggling.

Writing letters at school

Me and my friends used to write letters to each other at school ALL THE TIME. I’ve actually still got a lot of them, and they make for some very interesting reading!

We didn’t have the luxury of being able to whip our phone out and send a WhatsApp. Nope, we had to write out a note, fold it up and pass it under the table when we thought no one else was looking. You had to hope that the teachers didn’t see it because if they did, it would be read out to the whole class.

Letters in the post

We’d also send letters to each other in the post when we wanted to talk about ‘secret stuff’ that we didn’t want anyone else to see. It didn’t always work like that though. I remember once sending a letter to a boy I liked, and of course, he brought it into school and showed EVERYONE!! Oh, the embarrassment.

Letters, things our children will never understand
Image by Andrys Stienstra from Pixabay


Penpals were amazing, and they were a great way to talk to people in other parts of the world that you wouldn’t usually have talked to.

The only bad thing about them was that it used to take FOREVER to have a conversation. Now, you can just get on Twitter and have a conversation with someone as if they’re sitting in the room with you, which is so much easier.

Dial-up Internet

Dial-up Internet was the worst. It took about ten years to connect, and while it was connecting you were forced to listen to that horrible screeching sound that was the stuff of nightmares. It also used to be quite expensive, so Internet time was limited to half hour slots in my house at first.

Trying to use the phone when somebody was on the Internet

This had to be the most annoying thing ever. You picked up the phone to ring your best friend and instead of a dial tone, all you could hear that horrible screechy noise. This meant that you had to wait for whoever was on the Internet to get off before you could make your call, and you knew that if it was one of your parents they’d break that half hour time slot rule.

Being told to get off the internet because someone wanted to use the phone

Imagine being in the middle of waiting for your favourite Geocities page to load and then hearing your Mum shouting up the stairs telling you she wants to use the phone, like right now. Oh well, it’d only be a two hour wait before you could get back on again.

Waiting for images to load

I used to get so frustrated waiting for images to load on dial-up internet. You’d get one line at a time coming through, and if you tried to press back or reload the page, the whole thing would crash and you’d have to start again.

I’d go downstairs, make a drink, come back up and it would still only be half loaded.

Chat rooms

Before the days of social media and instant messaging, we had to use chat rooms to talk to each other in the evenings. Trying to get into one at the same time as your friends was frustrating because they were probably having to wait for someone to get off the phone, or they couldn’t connect to the one you were in because it was ‘full’.

Once you actually did get in one together, it was still hard to talk. There would be 100s of other conversations going on at the same time, which meant lots of scrolling to try and find what people were saying, and there was always that one person that would type lots of random letters to try and block up the screen.

MSN messenger

MSN messenger was THE way to talk to people in the 2000s. It was so much better than chatrooms and you could even send pictures and do video chat.

I wasted so many hours of my life on there talking to friends in group chats in the evenings. The only bad thing was that our computer was in my parent’s bedroom, so when they wanted to go to bed, that meant the end of the conversation!

Metal alarm clocks

Those metal alarm clocks with the 2 bells on were the worst things to wake up to! They were so loud, and you had to actually wake up to turn them off. There was no snooze button either, so you had to get up rather than going back to sleep for another 10 minutes.

The mobile phone alarms that we have now are so much better. The soft, gentle music that wakes you up slowly is a much nicer way to start your morning!

3 metal alarm clocks
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Keep an eye out for part two, and if there’s anything you could add to the list, please let me know in the comments.

What struggles did you have growing up that kids today just wouldn’t understand?

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12 Replies to “16 Things Our Children Will Never Understand”

  1. Phone love! I remember! My parents finally got me my own phone line and I managed to run the bill up so there simply cut me off after a while. Being stuck next to a wall to be able to be on the phone— those were the days!

    1. Having my own phone line would have been amazing!! But I would have been like you and run the bill up, so maybe not such a good idea 🙂

  2. This post made me laugh so much – I’d forgotten about the family phone being plugged in and having to crouch on the stairs for all the conversations. Also, on that note, without mobile phones, we had to make arrangements and stick to them – no texting to say we were on our way, running late, or even to cancel! Halycon days, I’m looking forward to part two 🙂

    1. I used to hate having to stick to arrangements. It was especially bad if you changed your mind about going out but couldn’t cancel and then had to go anyway!!

  3. This made me so nostalgic. I remember having to call a landline to speak to a friend and dreading a parent picking up. That’s definitely not something I miss. I also remember internet only after a certain time, the joyful sound of dial up and spending hours on MSN Messenger! Also only 5 TV channels!

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one that dreaded a parent picking up!! Oh, the days of only 5 TV channels lol. I honestly don’t know how we coped!

  4. Oh man, these brought me back. I have done a pretty good job of showing and telling my son all about these “inconveniences” from back in the day. That screech from picking up the phone while someone was on the internet was the worst! I played it for my son once and he said he never wanted to hear it again and when I told him we had to hear it every single time we used the net he was horrified. I miss MSN Messenger, many an hour was spent on that chatting with my friends.

    1. I can’t wait to tell mine about these. I don’t think he’d believe a lot of them lol.

      I miss MSN messenger too! I used to love getting on there after college and chatting to everyone 🙂

  5. This is a brilliant post! I remember all of these things – fond memories. We forget how much things have changed. Thanks for posting this, it really made me laugh. 🙂

    1. Ah, I’m glad you enjoyed it 😊 I actually had so much writing this. Like you said, we forget how much things have changed!

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