How do I Explain to Kids How Cell Phones Work?

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Although cell phones have become a part of everyday life, being so common that even children now own them and use them daily, many people may not understand how these electronic devices work.

Cell phones work not by a connection to a landline, but instead via an electric sound wave transmitted from one cell phone to a cell tower and then on to another cell phone. Explain to kids how cell phones work to help them understand this technology.

Define technical terms kids need to know to understand cell phone technology. For example, radio waves are electromagnetic waves that travel within radio frequencies and radiation occurs from the energy of electromagnetic waves.

Explain that a cell phone works by taking a person's voice and turning it into a radio wave. The antenna of a cell phone sends and receives radio waves.

Illustrate the way a cell phone call works by breaking down the process. When someone makes a cell phone call, the cell phone transforms the voice into a radio wave; the antenna then sends the radio wave to the nearest cell tower. The cell tower then passes the radio waves on to the cell phone of the person to whom the first person called. The voices of both people bounce back and forth between the cell phones as radio waves.

Mention that cell phones do not work well when they are not near a cell tower because the cell tower must receive radio waves and transfer them on.

Discuss the importance of cell phones for keeping in contact with others while you are away from home. Talk about using cell phones for making emergency calls and discuss calling 9-1-1 with a cell phone in an emergency situation.