Establishing Rules for Teen Cell Phone Use

Create cellphone rules that will keep your teen safe.
Adam Hester/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

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 Cellphone 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 him to use his smartphone for a few minutes as a privilege before he heads out the door.

Follow the School Rules 

Each school makes its own cellphone policies. So, investigate the policy at your child's school and make it clear that you expect her to follow the rules. 

If your teen gets in trouble at school for using his cell phone when he's not supposed to, support their discipline policy.

After all, it's important for your teen to learn he'll need to honor the cell phone policy of future employer's or college professors as well and it's an important life lesson to learn.

No Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

Don’t allow anyone to use their phones during meals. And practice 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.

The Cell Phone Must Be Turned in Before Bedtime

There really isn’t a good reason why a teen would need her 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 and it can interfere with your teen's sleep.

Although there are several reasons why teens shouldn't sleep with smartphones in their bedrooms, one main reason the pressure many teens feel to respond to messages at all hours of the night.

You can take that pressure off by establishing a rule that says phones aren't allowed in your teen's room overnight. 

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 her phone, breaks it, or incurs data overage charges. 

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

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dwyer R, Kushlev K, Dunn E. Smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions. J Exp Soc Psych. 2018:233-239. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2017.10.007

  2. Cutino CM, Nees MA. Restricting mobile phone access during homework increases attainment of study goals. Mob Media Commun. 2016;5(1):63-79. doi:10.1177/2050157916664558

  3. Amra B, Shahsavari A, Shayan-Moghadam R, et al. The association of sleep and late-night cell phone use among adolescentsJ Pediatr (Rio J). 2017;93(6):560–567. doi:10.1016/j.jped.2016.12.004

  4. LaVoie N, Lee YC, Parker J. Preliminary research developing a theory of cell phone distraction and social relationshipsAccid Anal Prev. 2016;86:155–160. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2015.10.023

  5. Englander EK. Risky business: Talking with your patients about cyberbullying and sextingChild Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2018;27(2):287–305. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2017.11.010