kids and cellphones

10 Rules for Children and Cell Phones

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The entire world has moved to the cell phone. It’s no longer a convenient tool to speak to someone when you are mobile. Now it is the town square. It’s the place to socialize, it’s the library, the arcade, the TV, the shopping mall, the remote control, etc. Kids know it and feel left out of the world when they don’t have one. So they will tell you that they need one and that everyone has one except them. A kid getting a smart phone today is similar to our generation getting a drivers license. [Tweet This] It is releasing them into a whole new world.

Unlike many other parenting topics, you cannot think back to how your parent handled the situation when you were a kid because cell phones were not around yet. Regardless of how old your child is when you decide it is time to give them one, here are 10 rules for kids and cell phones.

1. The Plan

Discuss with your child what their cell phone plan entails. Let them know how many minutes and text messages they have a month. Determine consequences for running over. One idea is to charge them for the price difference.

2. Picture/Video Messages

Let your child know if picture and video messaging is part of your plan. Tell them what is and isn’t appropriate. Discuss and forbid behavior such as sexting and let them know how inappropriate pictures can spread and ruin reputations.


Set rules on downloads. Require your kids to talk to you before downloading something. Use your discretion. There is no rating system for video games for cell phones.

4. Numbers to Avoid

Give your child a list of relatives to call or text sparingly. Also, warn them of incoming calls from unknown numbers who may be trying to get their information.

5. Driving and Cell Phones

Be familiar with the state laws to know if a headset is required for talking on the phone while driving and to know if texting while driving is illegal. Make your own rules for using the cell phone while driving.

6. Cell Phone Etiquette

Share with your child when it is not appropriate to use their cell phone. Examples include, in school, at the movies, on dates, during meals with people (especially family), during tests, at appointments, etc.

7. Cyber Bullying

Stop cyber bullying before it starts. Discuss with your child how painful it is for the victim and how there is no escape from cyber bullying once it starts.

8. Internet Usage

Tell your child if your phone plan covers internet usage or not. If it does, inform your child of any websites or applications you do not want them on.

9. Communicate Clearly

Explain to your child to write clearly over text messaging or if it is an important conversation to use the phone or even better, have it in person. Many conflicts are created using texting through miscommunication.

10. Attachment

Today, everyone has their cell phone attached to their ear or to their thumbs. Warn your child of becoming dependent on their cell phone and of becoming so attached they miss what is happening in front of them.

Sound Off

What rules would you give your child with a cell phone?

  • Michael Koval

    These are great points. I have an 8yr old daughter. My 18yr old recently moved out of our home and off of our phone plan willingly as she wants to be independent and things. So my wife decided to take her number since we were already paying for it and gave it to my 8yr old who is much like her mom “a social butterfly”. I wasn’t very keen on her getting it so early. We as parents must communicate. This is a new generation who will be “ALWAYS CONNECTED”. Heck I have problems getting away from it with work sometimes. However we must always be examples of the good behavior we want to see in our children. We can’t be so connected to the phone that we are disconnected from the real people we see every day. So as we as Dad’s come into this new uncharted territory may we as God for wisdom, patience and a loving spirit to guide our children in this world today

    • David

      Your misgivings are correct: giving a phone to an 8-year-old is completely unnecessary. They lack the maturity and discretion to use it wisely. My now 17-year-old got a texting phone in the 8th grade, and a smartphone in the 10th grade. And we still struggle with when and how often he should be using it. So I couldn’t imagine how an 8-year-old could possibly handle it correctly.

      And your’e right about being connected to the phone and disconnected from the people around us. Case in point: over the weekend my 12-year-old had a sleepover to celebrate his birthday. The two boys who had cell phones — and thus were able to text/call home — ended up bailing around midnight. I think the phones gave them too much of a connection/reminder to the comforts of home and didn’t give them the opportunity to get comfortable with the strange surroundings of a sleepover. It made it too easy to reach out to mom and give in to their fears and discomfort. In contrast, we had another boy who didn’t have a phone and was also unable to sleep, and we asked him if he wanted to go home, and he decided to give it another try, and was able to sleep. I know that if he had talked to mom or dad he would have broken down and left.

      Bottom line is that pre-teens really don’t need a phone. I think you should sit down with your wife and talk with her about your concerns.

  • Jay

    Some good suggestions but this is written from an old school bias “…if it’s an important conversation have it over the phone or even better in person”. That may or may not be “better”. I would be interested to read what a person who grew up in this digital age would say are the 10 rules for children and cell phones. We have to be careful we don’t just deem something as “better” because that is what we are used to or grew up with.

  • What about the dangers of radiation near a young child’s still-developing brain? Our best friends lost their young son to a brain tumor and told us the cancer ward is full of teenagers and 20 somethings with brain tumors. Similar to cigarette research that was kept from the public eye for far too long, some day the studies will be disclosed showing the linkages between cell phone usage by young children and brain tumors – but for now few are talking about it, as evidenced by this article.

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Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How are smart phones a good thing? How are they a bad thing?”

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