You finally gave in to your child’s pleas for a cell phone because you don’t want them to feel left out. But where should you draw the line between your child’s need for privacy and your responsibility as a parent to be aware of what they’re doing?
One way to manage and monitor teen cell phone use is by creating a contract.
Before your child even receives a cell phone, offer examples of the types of contracts you have for your cell phone, credit card, or mortgage. Be sure to explain what happens if you don’t abide by those contracts, then draw up your own contract outlining the expectations and rules of your child’s cell phone usage.
Here is an example of a cell phone contract you can use:
Middle School Cell Phone Contract
This contract between _____________________________, hereafter known as Child, and _____________________________, hereafter known as Parents, outlines the conditions of Child’s independent use of a cell phone. These conditions must be met in order for Child to continue to use cell phone.
By signing this contract, Child agrees to the following the rules of usage, which will be explained by Parents and checked off by Child.
☐ Use of the cell phone is a privilege that can be revoked at any time.
☐ The cell phone will only be used on a regular basis to call approved contacts. Otherwise, Child will only use the cell phone to make emergency calls.
☐ Child agrees to answer the cell phone when Parents call and to return missed calls as soon as possible.
☐ Child agrees not to take phone calls from unknown number. If Parents are calling from a number that Child may not know, Parents will leave a voicemail with instructions to call.
☐ Child agrees to use appropriate behavior when sending and receiving text messages or phone calls. Child will not engage in any form of bullying. If Child experiences bullying, Child will inform Parents immediately.
☐ Child will not take or send photos without direct permission from Parents.
☐ Child will give cell phone to Parents when asked, without argument. Text messages, phone messages, and other data will not be considered private.
☐ Bad behavior of any kind will result in loss of cell phone privileges. Bad behavior will be determined by Parents. It will not be defined explicitly, but can include doing poorly in school, or failing to do chores at home. Any type of bad behavior may result in suspension of cell phone privileges.
☐ Child will give the cell phone password to Parents and will not change password without notifying Parents.
☐ Child agrees to take care of the cell phone and keep it silent at appropriate times.
Increased demonstration of responsibility could lead to fewer restrictions over time. As such, this contract will be reviewed on _______________ and changes will be discussed at that time.
|(Child’s Signature)___________________________||(Parent’s Signature)___________________________|
At parenting workshops I have facilitated, parents express regret at having not looked at their child’s cell phone activity sooner. They are often shocked at the language in texts and social media posts, as well as concerned by the amount of anxiety and stress their children are dealing with because of interactions on their phone.
Our kids are entitled to privacy in some situations, like keeping a diary. But when it comes to their cell phones, parents need to be aware of what they’re doing and how they’re using their technology.