Set Boundaries for Kids With Cell Phones

By Katie Omohundro, Courier & Press, June 23, 2015 – Are you thinking about getting your child her first cellphone? Or perhaps you have a child that is already too attached to their electronic device.

Cellphones are a great way to stay in touch with your child; however, there are certainly some challenges that go along with extending this privilege. To help manage these challenges, you might consider having your child sign a cellphone contract.

According to research from the National Consumers League, around 50 percent of “tweens” (kids between the ages of 8 and 12) have cellphones that range from standard, basic phones with no texting or web access to smartphones with limitless possibilities.

How do you know your tween is ready for a phone? Answering a few questions can help you decide.

  • Why does your tween want a cellphone?
  • Does your tween show responsibility and self-discipline in other areas such as school, chores, and sports?
  • Does your tween lose important objects?
  • How much does your tween know about appropriate phone use?

I once read that when teaching children to ride a bike, we don’t start them off with the top-of-the-line 10-speed without training wheels. The same should apply when giving your child their first cellphone.

Once you’ve decided it’s time for your child to have a phone, it’s important to set boundaries. Here are some example items for a contract between you and your child when it comes to cellphone usage:

1. Responsibilities:

  • My parents will know the passwords on my phone. I understand they have the right to look at my phone any time they ask.
  • I will always answer calls from my parents. If I miss a call from them, I will call back immediately.
  • I will keep the phone charged at all times.
  • I will show my parents any harassing phone calls or texts, including those from unknown people.
  • I will hand my phone to one of my parents promptly at ____ p.m. every school night and every weekend night at ____ p.m. I will get the phone back at ____ a.m.

2. Behavior:

  • I understand my behavior on my phone can affect my future reputation. I will not engage in sexting, spreading rumors, or hateful conversations. If my friends try to get me to engage in this behavior, I will show my parents the phone immediately.
  • When I am old enough, I will not text and drive. I know this is very dangerous.
  • I will use good cellphone manners. I will not text when in the company of friends and family. I will turn off my phone (or put it on vibrate) while at the movies, at dinner, or in public.

3. Consequences — The cellphone will be taken away for any of the following:

  • Homework not completed
  • Chores left unfinished
  • Cellphone use at school
  • Ignoring people to be on the phone in public

The best way to get buy-in for the contract is to model the same behavior for your personal cellphone usage. If you text while driving or use your phone late at night, how can you expect your child to behave differently?

Lastly, remember that as a parent, you are the owner of the cellphone your child uses. If your child is not following the contract, the phone should be taken away. After all, you love your child and want the best for them.