5 Cell Phone Rules for Kids and Teenagers

Have a family cell phone policy in place when your kids first get a cell phone.

Every good family cell phone policy should take cell phone usage into account, especially at night when your kids should be sleeping.
Every good family cell phone policy should take cell phone usage into account, especially at night when your kids should be sleeping.

Create a family cell phone policy

As a parent there have been many times that I wish I had the benefit of hindsight; times that I wish I could get a do-over; and times when I wish I had been better prepared. One such time was the day I gave my kids their first cell phones. In retrospect I realize that their cell phones should have come with some sort of parent child cell phone contract, maybe a child-to-parent payment plan, or at the very least a a list of cell phone rules for kids.

Now, I do not claim to be any sort of parenting expert, far from it, but I have always tried to do my best for my two children (now almost 18 and 20 years old) and at least in regard to cell phones, I do think I may have a few pearls of wisdom to pass along to the novice parent. At the very least, I hope to give you the 20/20 vision that I lacked when I armed my then middle-school children with their own personal cell phones. When you decide that your kids should have cell phones, you can be prepared and hopefully avoid rough waters that will come if the cell phone becomes a bargaining chip in your relationship.

Two really important pieces of groundwork need to be laid before I give you my brand of "5 cell phone rules that every parent should have."

  • First and foremost, never forget that your child is a sponge, absorbing everything you do and say. And that is especially true when it comes to cell phone etiquette and behavior. If one day you don't want your teen driver to text or talk on the phone while driving, even if it seems like an eternity away, then you yourself should not do it today. Enough said.
  • Second, put your cell phone policy in place the very first day you allow your children to have a phone. The cell phone policy should come across to them as a "this is how it is done in our house" type of thing. If you wait until there is a problem and react then your cell phone rules come across as a punishment. The difference may seem subtle, but trust me when kids are involved it is worse enforcing a punishment than enforcing the rules.


5 critical cell phone rules that all parents of younger kids with cell phones should have:

Cell Phone Rule #1: No cell phones in the bedroom at night.

  • Why this rule is important. Kids need a lot of sleep and trust me, when they are allowed to have a cell phone in their room at night they will be quietly texting friends for hours on end! The way they look in the morning is usually a dead give away if this has been going on the night before. Keep in mind also that not everyone of your child's cell phone contacts is really a friend or someone you want texting your kid at night, let alone the day time. Texting frees them up to "say" things that they would not normally say out loud -- so just beware.
  • The best way to carryout this rule: Everyone in the house should put their cell phone in one location to charge overnight, and that means parents too. You can get one of those boxes for charging multiple electronics at the same time and put it in the kitchen or your bedroom. But by a certain time of your choosing cell phone usage needs to be shut down for the night. Simply put, lead by example.
  • Possible reaction(s) to this rule: First, they might tell you that their friends can have their cell phones at night. And you say that nighttime is for sleep and you are happy to let them have it during the day, but at night everyone needs to charge their phone and get a good night's sleep. Your kids also might say they need the cell phone alarm to wake up in the morning. That's purely a desperation move. Get them a cheap alarm clock. Problem solved.


Cell Phones in School

Does your child's school have a cell phone policy?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don't know
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Cell Phone Rule #2: No cell phones in school.

  • Why this rule is important. Many schools have a cell phone policy in place (usually it has to be off and out of sight), but this doesn't stop a lot of kids. Not only is cell phone use in school a distraction to learning, but they are used for cheating, bullying and spreading rumors at warp speed. Kids can easily silence their phones, and text without looking, all the while having their phone concealed in a hoodie or backpack pocket. Crazy, I know.
  • The best way to carryout this rule. To ensure that their cell phones are not at school, the phones needs to remain in a visible location at home as everyone goes off to school. That is why I think all phones should reside in the kitchen or central location for their overnight charging.
  • Possible reaction(s) to this rule. You will probably hear the usual stuff as they beg and plead to bring it with them, how all their friends have their cell phones at school. You just remind them of the school cell phone policy and how we are going to follow the school cell phone rules The only exception to this would be if they are involved in an after school activity or sport and need to contact you. Even then, it needs to be off during the day and you can monitor the number of texts during the day to ensure that they have not abused this privilege.


Cell Phone Rule #3: No cell phones on family days, family meals or other important family times.

  • Why this rule is important. Nothing can interfere with your family relationships quicker than endless texting while you are doing some sort of family activity together. The disinterested looks on their faces, the choppy conversation from being interrupted by the vibration of an incoming text, and the questions concerning when the family-time will be over can all be avoided if the cell phone is off and remains in the car or at home.
  • The best way to carryout this rule. You will have to decide your tolerance level for cell phone usage and what works best for your family; often this depends on the age of the child. For younger kids you may require that the phone be left home, and for older kids you may decide that cell phone use is allowed during the car ride but has to remain in the car during the family activity.
  • Possible reaction(s) to this rule. You may get complaints because they feel they are missing out on something so important, some tween or teen crisis, or dire friend emergency. Give them five minutes to finish up, but require that the family-time rule be followed when the time is up.


Cell phone cameras can be fun but picture mail can lead to trouble

You may want to include a "no picture mail" cell phone rule as part of your overall family cell phone policy.
You may want to include a "no picture mail" cell phone rule as part of your overall family cell phone policy.

Cell Phone Rule #4: No picture mail

  • Why this rule is important. Kids have been known to take pictures of everything, even if it's inappropriate. This is yet another reason schools do not allow cell phones; often equipped with cameras, they have been used in locker rooms and have been the cause of a lot of heartache. Even kids who have voluntarily taken exposed pictures of themselves have been labeled as sex offenders.
  • The best way to carryout this rule. Choose a cell phone plan that does not include picture mail. Just be aware that picture mail usually still functions even if it's not part of your plan - you just pay a lot for it when it occurs (receiving or sending). Go a step further and call your cell phone carrier to disable the picture mail service if possible. In addition, be sure to monitor cell phone usage to ensure that your child is not sending or receiving picture mail.
  • Possible reaction(s) to this rule. This shouldn't be too much of an issue. I would think that if it is, then they're up to no good, and you need to stick to your guns.


Cell phone rules for kids should always take cell phone safety into consideration

You may want to monitor your kid's cell phone contacts as part of your cell phone rules.
You may want to monitor your kid's cell phone contacts as part of your cell phone rules.

Cell Phone Rule #5: Make sure that each cell phone contact is a real friend or family member

  • Why this rule is important. When you decide that your kids should have cell phones and it is given to them, of course they are eager to show it off to their friends and pass along their number to anyone else with a cell phone, whether or not they are really friends. Kids that you may not really prefer your child to hang out with outside of school, now have a 24/7 connection. And this can ultimately be a really bad thing.
  • The best way to carryout this rule. When your child is older, like high school, you may have to trust them to use good discretion when giving out their phone number, but when your child is young you might ask to see their list of cell phone contacts periodically. Or some cell phone carriers will let you set up the phone so it only works with the cell phone contact numbers that you allow. If this is the case, then you can add appropriate numbers to the list as your child gives them to you.
  • Possible reaction(s) to this. I am not suggesting you do this for older kids, but for younger ones who are just happy to finally get a phone like their friends they probably won't protest too much. And at first they really do just want to text with their friends. If they do complain, just tell them that you are willing to provide them with a phone to communicate with their family and friends, not every kid they know with a phone.


Be proactive with your cell phone rules and not reactive with punishments

Remember, this suggested list of cell phone rules is intended for younger, non-high school age kids. Although rules 1, 3, and 4 might be a good idea for them too. The point is to think ahead of time about the possible points of contention, and let this time of early cell phone usage be a training ground for good cell phone etiquette.

If you have a family cell phone policy in place when your child first gets a cell phone in middle school or younger then hopefully good habits will be well established by high school. Consider the middle school years like cell phone boot camp. Just remember, you are the commander-in-chief and you have the duty of protecting those in your command.


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Comments 19 comments

Reena J 5 years ago

Hey thanks a lot for this useful information..I think every parents should take a look on this and be proactive in their side...


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

Hi ktrapp. Yet another useful and well written hub. I got up in the middle of the night recently to find my 10 year old daughter texting her friend at 1.45am!!! It almost caused world war 3, but the rule is now no phones or ipods in the bedroom at night. A problem I had was when my eldest daughter was 15, she used to let her friends borrow her phone and I ended up having to pay a bill almost £20 over her tariff! It never happened after this, but my younger daughter has been warned never to let a friend borrow her cell phone unless its an emergency and I know about it. Voted up and useful.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi Jacqui2011. It seems you may be "across the pond" from me, but our parenting issues are the same. One time in my daughter, probably 14 at the time, and a friend decided to text all night, a school night no less, to see if they could stay awake the whole night. I think keeping the phones out of their rooms at night really protects them from their own selves.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi Reena. I really do think when parents can be proactive as much as possible, then everyone is better off. Thanks for your input.


Just About It profile image

Just About It 5 years ago from southern CA

I agree with you 100%. I wish they would make one where a parent could control dialed and accepted called.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

It's tough not being able to control everything, isn't it "Just About It?" I have heard that our job as parents is to give our kids wings to fly. At some point I guess we have to give up being the pilot and take on the co-pilot position. Then one day when we've done our job well as parents we'll relinquish control completely because we've taught them to fly solo. Good luck and thanks for your comment.


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

Great Hub. My first phone was when I was in high school and my mom told me it was STRICTLy for emergencies. It only have a few minutes a month on the plan, it didn't have a camera or anything... the only thing it had that I really ended up using was the Snake game :)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks glassvisage. The first cell phones I got my kids were pay-as-you-go phones so they did have very limited use of them, but even so we mistakenly did not have cell phone rules in place, or at least we were not wise enough to enforce them. They got "real" cell phones at the same time at ages 16 and 14. Still we were not wise to the fact that they might stay up all night texting. If I could do it all again I would definitely use the 5 cell phone rules for young children and enforce them. I have the feeling parents are getting much wiser now, now that cell phones have been around for awhile. Thanks again for your comment. Oh - and I remember that snake game :)


TinaAtHome profile image

TinaAtHome 5 years ago from California

Watch Facebook too. My son signed up for 8 monthly contracts of $9.99 each using his cellphone. When I complained that the contracts were for those over 18 I was told the fact I had given my son a cellphone meant I had given him permission to spend money using it. I just didn't know that until it was too late.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for your input TinaAtHome. I cannot believe that giving a child a cellphone to use can be interpreted to mean permission to spend money with it. Thanks for making others aware of this. You may also be interested in this article about the effects of Facebook on teens based on a new study: https://wehavekids.com/parenting/Teens-and-Faceboo


TinasTreasures profile image

TinasTreasures 5 years ago from California

I never got the money back. I came to the conclusion that it was done on purpose to target teenagers with phones. It was one of those things that wasn't illegal, just immoral. My son made a contract with 8 different companies (without my knowledge) to spend my money at a rate of $9.99 a month. While he claimed he thought he was buying free points for games, I actually think he knew what he was doing.

Anyway, it took me a full day to sort out because I had to talk to 8 different companies all of whom refused to refund the $9.99 I had paid, but as a "special favor" canceled the contract for future payments.

Anyway I complained to Verizon and said they weren't innocent because they obviously got commission on the sales and as a "special favor" they gave me a credit of $40 and I made my son pay the other $40 as a lesson learned. But parents be aware when you give your child a cellphone it's like giving them permission to spend your money. You might not know this, but companies do.

One more thing, my other son was 16 and got a debit card and unknowingly signed up for $189 a month from his bank account. He thought he was getting free points for a Facebook game too. They are targeting our teenagers and we must educate our children to not fall for their tricks.


TinaAtHome profile image

TinaAtHome 5 years ago from California

Sorry about that. I am TinasTreasures and TinaAtHome. I am the same person, just with 2 different accounts (I didn't realize I was logged into the other account)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Tina. I think you're right about targeting kids. I remember when my daughter first got a cell phone she got a bunch of free ringtones - or so she thought. The ringtone didn't cost anything but the data usage to get it on her phone did and it was a lot. I had the cellphone company make it so the phone couldn't transfer data, but any time I upgraded a phone or replaced a broken phone data usage was allowed again. It seems the default is to allow things until parents are faced with some outrageous bill. Seems very backwards to me. Thanks for sharing your experiences, they can help others.


slaffery profile image

slaffery 5 years ago from Kansas, USA

Well I think I've broken most of the rules. I love this and have printed it out to show my husband. Thanks for sharing this hub. :)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks slaffery. Just don't let your kids know you've broken the rules. Haha. I'm glad you loved this enough to print it and share it.


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada

Ktrapp, very good ideas. My stepson has a cell phone that we bought him and I didn't realize until a few months later how disruptive these things can be. We have not made any of these rules and going back now would be hard (esp. since he is in high school) but it is still an option.

He has only texted once or twice at the dinner table but if it happens any more often, I think we will need to make an actual rule.

I also love the no phones at night rule. I also think it should be no t.v. and no internet on at night, too.

Thank you for another excellent hub!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

So glad about this heads up! I recently bought a cell phone for my now 13 year old and I have already been using some of your suggestions but I am thrilled to get your well thought out rules created from a "Mom in the trenches." Great hub! ~Voted up and awesome~


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you Tracy. If I had to pick out the single most important "cell phone rule for kids" I would have to say it is not allowing your child to have the cell phone in his bedroom at night. I think this rule becomes pretty obvious to most parents once they realize what is going on, but personally I would find it easier to explain to the child ahead of time, "I will get you a cell phone but you cannot have it in your room when it is time to go to bed." Best wishes to you as you enter into the "parenting of a teen" stage. It's a lot of fun too; hopefully I have not painted a bad picture to anyone!


QuintessenceOfAng profile image

QuintessenceOfAng 12 months ago from Colorado

Thanks for doing this - this article has a lot of great ideas! I like how you point out how the rules should be in place on day 1 so they do not otherwise feel like punishment later. If I would have had that wisdom when I first gave my oldest daughter a cell phone we could have avoided a lot of conflict and headaches. I will know now for my little one once she reaches cell phone age. Thanks again - great hub!

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