Lately we’ve been faced with the dilemma of buying our youngest son a cellphone. Purchasing a smartphone for your child can open up a world of convenience, but it can also cause trouble if you and your child are not prepared. I think it’s important as parents you create Cellphone Guidelines for your child before you hand over the phone. This can be in terms of a user contract between parent and child that sets the ground rules making sure everyone is on the same page. It can be a verbal or written contract setting our the reasonable expectations, along with consequences if rules are broken.
Proper Care and Maintenance
It’s important that any cellphone you buy your child is in working condition. Stay away from used phones, and make sure your child understands that the condition of the phone is now their responsibility, along with the costs to repair it should the phone become damaged with a cracked screen, water damage and theft. This instills a sense of ownership and responsibility for your child as your child gets older and learns the importance of caring for their possessions. If your child is older and you pay for the phone, consider asking them to go half with you or pay the insurance.
Answer the Phone
I hate it when my teenage son never answers his cellphone when I call, and while screening calls is a luxury all cellphone users have, make it a hard and fast rule that if the caller id reads “Mom” or “Dad” your child is to always answer (unless at school) or (work). Avoid the inevitable “my battery was dead” excuse which my son always gives me by investing in a phone with a reliable battery life, like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and remind your child of the earlier rule of proper cellphone care, which includes a fully charged battery and or backup battery at all times.
Setting a curfew for phone usage is important. Easiest rule I set for my boys is if they aren’t comfortable calling a parent at a certain hours, they should not be calling or texting their friends at that time. Set reasonable cellphone hours, or times to take and give the phone back. Such as all cellphones go in a basket during dinnertime, you get it back after dinner. Times can change if it’s a weekend or weekday, exceptions can be made for holidays. But create a baseline for your child and go from there.
Parents should always have unlimited access to any and all content on their child’s phone at any time. My seventeen year old has no issues with handing over his phone. All passwords for social networks used on the phone are shared between us. That isn’t to say as a parent you should go snooping through your kids phone on a regular basis. Trust should be established, but possession of the phone should be given upon request.
Quick and fast rule: If there is something on the phone your child wouldn’t want you to see it shouldn’t be there. This helps keep your child safe from accessing inappropriate websites, saving and sending pictures and texting or emailing things they otherwise shouldn’t. If you need more ideas for your teen and his or her cell phone contract? Check out Teen Safe’s Anatomy of a Smartphone Contract.