Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tween Cell Phone Rules

Cell phones have saturated our society, including our children. While most teens have cell phones, many tween-ers are starting to carry cell phones as well. I'm not here to argue whether it's a good idea or not and at what age it is appropriate for a child to get a cell phone. For our family, our "tween" daughter proved herself responsible enough for a cell phone and we got her one. (And, it should be noted, she was one of the last in her class to get one, which surprised me.)

We have a nifty feature called Chaperone (from Verizon) that makes it easy to keep track of her. We set up a "Home Zone" and a "School Zone" online, and we get a text message when she ventures out of or into each of those zones. The zones are set to include 1/4 mile from a given address; in this case, within a 1/4 mile from home or 1/4 mile from school. For instance, I get a text message when she is on the bus and on her way to school (her bus stop is exactly 1/4 mile from our house) and again when she is a couple of blocks from school and vice-versa in the afternoon. I really LOVE this feature. In addition, we can go online and it will give us an approximate address of where she is at any given time. My hubby has the feature installed as an application on his phone and he can "search" for her phone whenever and however often he wants to.

In addition, we set up a specific list of rules for her to abide by. I did a lot of research online to determine what these rules would be and her dad and I talked it over for quite a while before deciding that she was ready for it and what those rules would be. For her, the cell phone is not a necessity - it is a privilege and will be treated as such.  We put these rules into a contract that she signs on an annual basis.  It is good to review what the agreement is every once in a while.  :)

Cell Phone Rules

1. Phone Number: Do not give your phone number to anyone without Mom or Dad's permission first.

2. Caller ID: Do not answer any calls or reply to any texts unless you know who it is (Caller ID). Always answer when Mom or Dad call.

3. Extras: No downloads ("Get It Now") or using the internet ("Web") without permission ahead of time -- this costs extra.

4. At Night: Phone MUST be turned off by 9pm each evening and left in the kitchen for charging. It stays off till the next morning after you're ready for school and/or chores are done.

5. Pictures: Sending pictures to anyone requires permission by Mom or Dad first, for now. If you receive any pictures from friends that make you uncomfortable, tell Mom or Dad about it immediately.

6. At School: Phone must be on "silent mode" during school hours and left in your backpack (unless you are leaving the school for a field trip or something similar -- then keep it with you). The phone cannot be used at school during school hours unless you have your teacher's approval first. Know your school's rules for cell phones and follow them.

7. Off Limits: No cell phone till your homework is done after school and during family times (dinner, family night, etc).

8. Contact List: You can only call or text those who are on your contact list. Any additions to your contact list must be approved by Mom or Dad.

9. Inspection: Mom & Dad can request to inspect your phone at any time.

10. Time Out: If any of the above rules are broken, Mom or Dad may put your phone on "time-out" for as long as we feel it is necessary.

In addition to the above rules, she knows that if she loses or breaks the phone she has now, she will have to use one of our old phones (not nearly as "cool" in her book). In order to pay for her portion of the cell phone, she babysits one night a week and helps mom with our family business (we clean professional offices) for about 2 hours weekly.

Of course, when she gets older the rules will evolve to include no talking or texting while driving. At that time we may also relax some of the other rules if she has proven herself mature enough to be conscientious about how she uses the phone.

Do you have a tween with a cell phone? What rules does your family have regarding cell phone use? What have I missed? :)



  1. My 11 yr old daughter used to have a cell phone, but doesn't anymore. One thing you should talk to your daughter about and I would have never thought of it if it didn't happen to us...

    My daughter signed up for something she saw in an ad online and all you had to do was enter your cell phone number and it signed you up for a service with the monthly bill being tacked on to your cell phone bill. You don't even need credit cards anymore to sign up for things! Crazy!

  2. My kids are nowhere near cell phone age, but I know that eventually I will have to get them one, and these rules sound perfect to me. I'm now copying them down so I'll have them as a reference on that not-too-distant day. :) Thanks!

  3. Am Homemaker:

    I'd never thought of that... Right now our daughter is only allowed to access sites on the internet that we pre-approve, and they're mostly disney and webkinz, etc but I'll definitely mention it to her! :) Thanks for the heads-up!

  4. Our 10-year-old doesn't have cell phone, but if she comes to us asking for one, I have one rule: she has to pay for it herself.

    When I convinced my parents to have my own line, I had to pay for it myself; although, I convinced my sister to go in on it.

  5. With a toddler I am not quite there yet.....but this is a great post!

  6. Ok I'm just asking and not trying to be argumentative. So here goes. Why in the world does a kid in elementary or middle school need a cell phone? During the school day she is at school and you only have to call the office to contact her. When she is home you know where she is and when she has to go anywhere, you have to take her. Please explain the reasoning.

  7. I'm a working mom so knowing my tween has a way to get in touch with me- no matter where or when - is a big relief. We take her to school but she has to walk home.

  8. I don't feel I need to justify my choices for my family to anyone else, hence why I began my posting with "I'm not here to argue whether it's a good idea or not and at what age it is appropriate for a child to get a cell phone. "

    But, since you asked, my daughter has a cell phone because she is not simply at school and at home. She babysits. She goes to weekly church youth activities. She goes over to friends' houses. She walks to and from the bus stop. Like Lesley, it is a huge comfort to me to know I can get in touch with her and she can get in touch with me no matter where or when.

    In addition, she is a very responsible girl and we wanted to reward that responsibility with something she really wanted. Because it only costs us $10 a month to add her to our plan, it's not a huge investment. If she'd wanted a $400 something-or-other, there's no way we would have done it. Because she is working to pay for her portion of it and she has proven herself to be responsible, we felt it was something that was right for her.

    When a child proves themselves to be responsible, you give them more responsibilities to help them continue to learn and grow. That's how our family works. Take it or leave it.

  9. thanks-I posted them with a little tweek on my blog!!! +

  10. thanks, Kim!

    OUr 11 1/2 yr. old wants a cell phone for Xmas! I'm going to copy and use some of your rules...& she's going to sign on the dotted line regarding the limitations!

    Thanks for posting this!

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  12. Time for some rules at our house and these are perfect! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Great list, the only thing I'd add is that I think it's also wise to talk to your kids about their "digital footprint!" Like email, everything they text and send is "out there." I have told my kids about other parents who read their kids' texts... (and tell me other parents). They need to know that they don't know whose hands their words fall into. Especially when it comes to pictures. Even if they are too young to worry about "sexting" now, start talking to them about it NOW. Stats show that 1 in 4 kids have sent compromising pictures of themselves. As for the mom curious as to why a tween needs a phone... I too feel much more comfortable letting them walk to a friends house, bus stop, etc., but it's also convenient. They need to be picked up from soccer because of thunder, they forget something at school, etc., etc. I loveeee getting "Good night, I love you" texts from sleepovers, or "I GOT AN A ON MY TEST" between classes from my 11 and 13 year olds. They are very affordable these days, I'm not sure what the big deal is for some parents. This is the communication of today!

  14. our 11 yr old daughter who started middle school this year got a cell phone. our rules are very similar. if she wants texting on her phone, she has to pay for that. one rule that we have is she is not allowed to delete any texts. she knows that her phone is subject to be checked at anytime and if i find that she has deleted anything (which typically means she is hiding something), she will lose her phone. luckily, we haven't had any situations that have happened, but working with the youth at church, i know that it is bound to happen.