5 Cell Phone Rules for Kids and Teenagers
Have a family cell phone policy in place when your kids first get a cell phone.
How to Create a family Cell Phone Policy
As a parent there have been many times that I wish I had the benefit of hindsight; times that I wish I could get a do-over; and times when I wish I had been better prepared. One such time was the day I gave my kids their first cell phones. In retrospect, I realize that their cell phones should have come with some sort of parent child cell phone contract, maybe a child-to-parent payment plan, or at the very least, a list of cell phone rules for kids.
Now, I do not claim to be any sort of parenting expert, far from it, but I have always tried to do my best for my two children (now almost 18 and 20 years old) and at least in regard to cell phones, I do think I may have a few pearls of wisdom to pass along to the novice parent. At the very least, I hope to give you the 20/20 vision that I lacked when I armed my then middle-school children with their own personal cell phones. When you decide that your kids should have cell phones, you can be prepared and hopefully avoid rough waters that will come if the cell phone becomes a bargaining chip in your relationship.
Two really important pieces of groundwork need to be laid before I give you my brand of 5 cell phone rules that every parent should have.
- First and foremost, never forget that your child is a sponge, absorbing everything you do and say. And that is especially true when it comes to cell phone etiquette and behavior. If one day you don't want your teen driver to text or talk on the phone while driving, even if it seems like an eternity away, then you yourself should not do it today. Enough said.
- Second, put your cell phone policy in place the very first day you allow your children to have a phone. The cell phone policy should come across to them as a "this is how it is done in our house" type of thing. If you wait until there is a problem and react then your cell phone rules come across as a punishment. The difference may seem subtle, but trust me when kids are involved it is worse enforcing a punishment than enforcing the rules.
5 Critical Cell Phone Rules That All Parents of Younger Kids With Cell Phones Should Have:
Rule #1: No cell phones in the bedroom at night
Why this rule is important. Kids need a lot of sleep and trust me, when they are allowed to have a cell phone in their room at night they will be quietly texting friends for hours on end! The way they look in the morning is usually a dead give away if this has been going on the night before. Keep in mind also that not everyone of your child's cell phone contacts is really a friend or someone you want texting your kid at night, let alone the day time. Texting frees them up to "say" things that they would not normally say out loud -- so just beware.
- The best way to carryout this rule: Everyone in the house should put their cell phone in one location to charge overnight, and that means parents too. You can get one of those boxes for charging multiple electronics at the same time and put it in the kitchen or your bedroom. But by a certain time of your choosing cell phone usage needs to be shut down for the night. Simply put, lead by example.
- Possible reaction(s) to this rule: First, they might tell you that their friends can have their cell phones at night. And you say that nighttime is for sleep and you are happy to let them have it during the day, but at night everyone needs to charge their phone and get a good night's sleep. Your kids also might say they need the cell phone alarm to wake up in the morning. That's purely a desperation move. Get them a cheap alarm clock. Problem solved.
Rule #2: No cell phones in school
- Why this rule is important. Many schools have a cell phone policy in place (usually it has to be off and out of sight), but this doesn't stop a lot of kids. Not only is cell phone use in school a distraction to learning, but they are used for cheating, bullying and spreading rumors at warp speed. Kids can easily silence their phones, and text without looking, all the while having their phone concealed in a hoodie or backpack pocket. Crazy, I know.
- The best way to carryout this rule. To ensure that their cell phones are not at school, the phones needs to remain in a visible location at home as everyone goes off to school. That is why I think all phones should reside in the kitchen or central location for their overnight charging.
- Possible reaction(s) to this rule. You will probably hear the usual stuff as they beg and plead to bring it with them, how all their friends have their cell phones at school. You just remind them of the school cell phone policy and how we are going to follow the school cell phone rules The only exception to this would be if they are involved in an after school activity or sport and need to contact you. Even then, it needs to be off during the day and you can monitor the number of texts during the day to ensure that they have not abused this privilege.
Cell Phones in School
Does your child's school have a cell phone policy?
Rule #3: No cell phones on family days, family meals or other important family times
- Why this rule is important. Nothing can interfere with your family relationships quicker than endless texting while you are doing some sort of family activity together. The disinterested looks on their faces, the choppy conversation from being interrupted by the vibration of an incoming text, and the questions concerning when the family-time will be over can all be avoided if the cell phone is off and remains in the car or at home.
- The best way to carryout this rule. You will have to decide your tolerance level for cell phone usage and what works best for your family; often this depends on the age of the child. For younger kids you may require that the phone be left home, and for older kids you may decide that cell phone use is allowed during the car ride but has to remain in the car during the family activity.
- Possible reaction(s) to this rule. You may get complaints because they feel they are missing out on something so important, some tween or teen crisis, or dire friend emergency. Give them five minutes to finish up, but require that the family-time rule be followed when the time is up.
Cell phone cameras can be fun but picture mail can lead to trouble
Rule #4: No picture mail
- Why this rule is important. Kids have been known to take pictures of everything, even if it's inappropriate. This is yet another reason schools do not allow cell phones; often equipped with cameras, they have been used in locker rooms and have been the cause of a lot of heartache. Even kids who have voluntarily taken exposed pictures of themselves have been labeled as sex offenders.
- The best way to carryout this rule. Choose a cell phone plan that does not include picture mail. Just be aware that picture mail usually still functions even if it's not part of your plan - you just pay a lot for it when it occurs (receiving or sending). Go a step further and call your cell phone carrier to disable the picture mail service if possible. In addition, be sure to monitor cell phone usage to ensure that your child is not sending or receiving picture mail.
- Possible reaction(s) to this rule. This shouldn't be too much of an issue. I would think that if it is, then they're up to no good, and you need to stick to your guns.
Cell phone rules for kids should always take cell phone safety into consideration
Rule #5: Make sure that each cell phone contact is a real friend or family member
- Why this rule is important. When you decide that your kids should have cell phones and it is given to them, of course they are eager to show it off to their friends and pass along their number to anyone else with a cell phone, whether or not they are really friends. Kids that you may not really prefer your child to hang out with outside of school, now have a 24/7 connection. And this can ultimately be a really bad thing.
- The best way to carryout this rule. When your child is older, like high school, you may have to trust them to use good discretion when giving out their phone number, but when your child is young you might ask to see their list of cell phone contacts periodically. Or some cell phone carriers will let you set up the phone so it only works with the cell phone contact numbers that you allow. If this is the case, then you can add appropriate numbers to the list as your child gives them to you.
- Possible reaction(s) to this. I am not suggesting you do this for older kids, but for younger ones who are just happy to finally get a phone like their friends they probably won't protest too much. And at first they really do just want to text with their friends. If they do complain, just tell them that you are willing to provide them with a phone to communicate with their family and friends, not every kid they know with a phone.
Be proactive with your cell phone rules and not reactive with punishments
Remember, this suggested list of cell phone rules is intended for younger, non-high school age kids. Although rules 1, 3, and 4 might be a good idea for them too. The point is to think ahead of time about the possible points of contention, and let this time of early cell phone usage be a training ground for good cell phone etiquette.
If you have a family cell phone policy in place when your child first gets a cell phone in middle school or younger then hopefully good habits will be well established by high school. Consider the middle school years like cell phone boot camp. Just remember, you are the commander-in-chief and you have the duty of protecting those in your command.