Managing Cell Phone Use By Kids

It seems that everyone old enough to read has a smartphone these days. As younger and younger users get phones from their parents, many of us struggle with the decision about when a child is old enough to be given access.

Your unique circumstances are up to you as you assess whether to take the plunge. But we can offer some suggestions about how to handle the phone once you’ve made a decision to get it for your child.

Maintain Care

The first thing most people think of as they consider a purchase is its cost. Whether it’s a vehicle for their own use or a child’s cell phone, they must decide if they can afford it. And part of that decision is replacement cost; when we buy a car, we have insurance to cover it if it’s damaged in an accident.

When you consider a phone, you must do the same thing. If you make the decision to buy your child an iPhone 6, you should require that he or she immediately goes shopping for an iphone 6 case.

You also need to enforce its use vigorously. Children like to switch things up. They change their profile pictures on social media, rearrange their rooms, or have nails repainted. They will do the same with the phone, and if you permit them to use it without a case, you are asking for trouble.

Part of the process of deciding to buy a phone is deciding to have a zero-tolerance policy for using the phone without a case. It’s non-negotiable.

Maintain Control

Unless your child is independently wealthy and is paying all the bills, that phone will be on your tab with the wireless provider. As such, it is under your control.

And that doesn’t just mean that you can crack the whip about when to use it, or that you are allowed to enforce the above-mentioned usage of the case. It means the intangible use of the phone. It means you are allowed to view their text messages, social media, phone log, and so forth.

Of course, kids are savvy and will try to outwit you at every turn. But you can also review logs on your bill, seeing what numbers have interacted with your child and when. If a problem arises, it is possible to see the content of text conversations, with the appropriate legal help.

The bottom line is that just as you have unfettered access to the bedroom you provide, you also have unlimited freedom to see what their phone is being used for.

Manage Access

There is plenty of reason to be concerned about excessive phone use by kids. It decreases their physical activity levels, depresses their mood, and reduces their ability to interact with actual humans.

You can manage this. Set parameters for phone use by requiring that certain chores be completed each day before the phone may come out to play. At that point, limit the total number of hours of phone access. Have cutoff times each night (and starting times each morning), outside of which access is not permitted.

Start with these rules when the phone is first activated. The child will accept the conditions more readily if it’s the only way to get a phone, and that’s much easier than trying to round up the herd after the gate has already been opened.

Make It A Tool

It’s good to keep in mind that anything you give a child as a privilege is something that you can take away for disobedience. Remind your child from day one that the phone is not an entitlement nor a necessity. It is a privilege, and like any other privilege, it can be taken away.

Be consistent. If you have a rule that incomplete homework assignments are grounds for phone confiscation for 24 hours, make good on it. Don’t water it down to 16 or 12…or two.

Maintaining your position that the phone is a special thing will help manage its proper use as well as your child’s behavior and cooperation. As you consider the decision to provide your child with a phone, keep its management in mind throughout the whole process so that the ground rules are clear before the first ringtone.

Managing Cell Phone Use By Kids



  1. This is a great post, I was always fighting with my girls when they first got their phones and my youngest had over 20,000 text messages in one month that had her phone taken away!!

  2. Great tips! We often wonder why young kids (8) are allowed cell phones but then again you almost want them to have them with everything going on in the world.

    I agree that if I’m paying for it I have access any time to check up just as I can do so in the house that I pay the mortgage for. As my parents always been said; when you’re 18 and living on your own you can make the decisions until then you follow OUR rules!

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