Did you get one of your kids his first cell phone this Christmas? If you did, the phone should have come with a list of rules. If it didn’t you’ve come to the right place.
Each family is different, and parenting styles vary widely so there is no one-size-fits-all list. As follows are some things to consider as you create your list to guide safe and responsible cell phone use:
Password – Setting a home screen password is quick and easy to do on most phones, and you should insist that your child set one. It will be well worth the effort if the phone is lost or stolen, or picked up by a mischievous friend. It is up to you whether you know the password, but we recommend it. It’s your phone, after all.
Be available – When our two oldest kids got their first phones, the timing was driven by the fact that we needed to be able to get a hold of them, as their after school and weekend activities became more frequent and the timing less predictable. If you call or message your child, he should be expected to answer promptly – as soon as possible.
Stranger danger – Depending on his age, using his phone to connect with friends may be OK but using it to connect with new people may not. Stranger danger is real and not everyone online is who he claims to be.
Wifi vs. data – Wifi internet access is free, whereas cellular data can be quite expensive if you blow through your monthly data cap. If your child is into streaming music or videos, or playing bandwidth-intensive games, you might consider restricting these activities to times when a wifi network is available.
Social media and apps – You’ll need to have some control over which social media networks your kids use, and which apps they download. For social media, the age limit for most is 13, but the networks themselves don’t enforce it so it’s up to you. All apps have an age restriction, and you can find it in the iTunes or Google Play app stores.
Cyberbullying – Educating your kids on why bullying is wrong should be an ongoing effort, but a new cell phone gives you an opportunity to revisit the topic. Remind him that it’s never OK to say something online or via text that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, with a parent listening.
Guard that number – It’s never OK to post your phone number online or give it to a stranger. A phone number should be given out to friends and family only.
Age appropriate content – With an internet connection comes access to every type of content, including porn and other things not appropriate for young eyes. Your rules for which websites your son accesses should be the same on his phone as the ones that apply to his computer.
Timing is everything – Have a plan about when he is going to be allowed to use his phone. You may want to require him put it down during meal time, at bed time, when he’s in school or spending time with the family. It’s totally up to you, but once you set rules, you need to enforce them.
Depending on your child’s age and maturity level and your parenting style, you can create a list of rules that works for your family.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.