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Ask The Expert: Creating Cell Phone Rules for Teens

Dear Your Teen:

My daughter and her friends are always on their phones when they are together. In fact, someone will get a text, crack up, and then furiously reply to the text. It feels like someone is whispering. There is now a secret between that girl and the person who texted. My husband says that is what kids do. My daughter says everyone does it. Do you have any advice?

EXPERT | Sue Scheff

Just because everyone does it, doesn’t make it right.

Parents need to realize that digital citizenship should start before their child is actually given a tech gadget such as a cell phone. Teaching your child simple things such as respect, empathy, and manners is part of building a foundation in life that should flow into their cyber-life.

What you are describing is rude. Rudeness is not acceptable.

It is true, kids are attached to their cell phones. They are literally glued to them. But don’t forget, you are the parent and you are in control. Having a cell phone is a privilege for any child—teens and tweens included.

Although some girls may be laughing, others are probably feeling left out. Help your daughter to recognize this as a negative behavior that she should not participate in. Instead of agreeing that all kids are doing it, help her understand how it feels.

Texting followed by laughter is impolite. Some kids will feel left out and hurt.

Hopefully she will begin to digest this and will realize that some friends were silently suffering while others were giggling. Sometimes putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is the only way to fully grasp the unattractiveness of the situation.

I recommend discussing cell phone rules as well as digital citizenship and safety before you give your child a cell phone. But it is never to late to have that conversation. I also encourage cell phone etiquette contracts. This is an opportunity to address potential situations before they happen.

5 Etiquette Tips for Cell Phones:

1. Proximity Matters.

Never talk on a cell phone within 20 feet of another person.

2. No Phone Times

Set-up “no-cell-phone” times such as mealtime, bedtime, in the car (time for some face-to-face or as I say, side-by-side chat time).

3. No Phone Zones

Phones should be turned off in places that may disturb others (classrooms, libraries, etc.).

4. Private in Private

Private conversations should not take place in public places.

5. Be a Role Model.

My last piece of advice is to say, “Lead by example.” You are your teen’s role model. So, if you sit in a restaurant and text or chat on your cell phone while with your friends, know that your kids are watching. Consider changing your behavior as well. Sometimes it’s that simple.

Sue Scheff

Sue Scheff is the founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts and author of Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen (HCI) and Google Bomb (HCI). She’s also a regular contributor for Huffington Post, Dr. Greene, GalTime, Parenting Today’s Kids, Education.com and more.