Establishing Rules for Teen Cell Phone Use

Create cellphone rules that will keep your teen safe.
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Establishing cell phone rules for teens can be a little tricky. After all, most parents didn't grow up owning a cell phone so knowing what's appropriate and what isn't can be a challenge. Technology also changes so quickly that it can also be hard to keep up with the latest devices, social networking sites, and apps.

Rules for Teen Cell Phone Usage

Without clear guidelines, many teens struggle to handle the responsibility of owning a smartphone. So it's important to establish rules that will help your teen make healthy choices. 

No Cell Phone Use Before School

Most teens don’t have much time to spare before school, and texting or surfing social media can waste a lot of precious minutes. So start the day off right by saying, "No phones in the morning." If your teen happens to get ready early, you might consider allowing them to use their smartphone for a few minutes as a privilege before they head out the door.

Follow School Rules 

Each school makes its own cellphone policies. Investigate the policy at your child's school and make it clear that you expect them to follow the school's rules. If your teen gets in trouble at school for violating cell phone rules, support the school's discipline policy.

Your teen needs to learn to honor the cell phone policy of future employers or college professors. It's an important life lesson.

No Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

Don’t allow anyone to use their phones during meals. That means being a good role model. Don't respond to text messages or emails while you're eating. Teach your child appropriate cell phone etiquette.

No Cell Phones During Family Time

Stress the importance of interacting with one another in person. Make it clear that during family activities, cell phone use is prohibited. Whether you’re visiting with extended family or you’re playing a game of catch, discourage bad cell phone habits, like ignoring friends to text someone who isn't present.

No Cell Phone Use During Homework Time

Replying to text messages or keeping up with social media can be a huge distraction for teens who are trying to study. Set limits on cellphone use during homework time, especially if your teen’s grades are suffering.

No Cell Phone Use Overnight

There really isn’t a good reason why a teen would need their phone during the wee hours of the morning. Teens who keep their phones in their rooms at night are likely to respond to text messages or social media updates in the middle of the night, which disrupts their sleep.

If teens sleep with smartphones in their bedrooms, they may feel pressure to respond to messages at all hours of the night. You can take that pressure off by requiring teens to turn their phones in before bed. Establish a rule that clearly states what time the phone must be turned off in the evening. Then, charge the phone in a common area of the home, such as in the kitchen. 

No Cell Phone Use While Driving

Unfortunately, many teens get into fatal car accidents because they were replying to a text message while driving. Help your teen problem-solve ways to reduce the temptation to use the phone while driving.

The best solution is usually to shut off the phone while driving. At the very least, consider installing a smartphone app that prevents texting and driving.

No Cell Phones in Bedrooms

Many teens just aren’t ready to handle the responsibility of having a cell phone in their bedrooms. They may not be able to resist risky behavior such as sexting or downloading inappropriate content. Restricting your teen from using his phone in his bedroom can seem extreme, but for some families, it can be the best way to teach appropriate cell phone use. 

How to Create a Behavior Contract

Once you've established clear cell phone rules, create a behavior contract. Include the rules and the consequences your teen will experience for breaking any of the rules. You also might include what will happen if your teen loses their phone, breaks it, or incurs data overage charges. 

Then, have your teen review and sign the contract. That way, you'll know they are clear about your expectations and any restrictions you might impose if they violate the rules.

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