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Establishing Healthy Rules for Your Kid’s First Phone

So, you’re ready to take the tech plunge and get your kid their first cell phone. It’s nerve wracking, we know. That’s why we’re recommending taking steps to establish some healthy cell phone rules. We’re here get you started.

Guidelines for Healthy Phone Habits

Every parent knows their kid the best. You know when they’re ready for their first cell phone and what kind of responsibilities they’re able to take on with it. It doesn’t stop the worry - the worry they’ll gain access to content you’d prefer them not to, or that they’ll spend less time appreciating family activities and more time engrossed on their screen. We hope you’ll worry less by taking to heart some of these below guidelines.

Parents Own Phones

Your kids are minors and chances are good you bought the phone. Your kid using the phone is a privilege, and, if they can’t take care of it or follow your rules, then you can (and should) take it back.

Parents Own All Information

Similar to the first point, their phone is yours and you should have access to all the information on it- passwords, photos, messages, social accounts, browser history, etc. If your kid is unwilling to share information then they probably are doing something they know they shouldn’t be.

Kids Take Responsibility

While the phone is in their possession, your kids are responsible for it. They need to keep it safe, charged (and powered on) and know where it is at all times. If something happens to it, they are responsible for replacing it and/or any other consequences you deem appropriate.

Understand Internet Safety

From knowing what to share and who to share it with (and the ramifications) to cyberbullying and other internet best practices, make sure your kids understand how to stay safe online.

Set Restrictions

Most smartphones come with some form of parental controls, and, if they don’t, there are plenty of apps that do. Set restrictions for things like asking permission to download apps and how much time they can spend on them.

Think Before They Type

Expect your kids to behave online like they do in person. If they wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, it probably shouldn’t be said over any form of shared media. Teach them to respect people’s privacy and think before they post something.

Family and Friend Time

While having a phone is great, in-person interactions are even better. Make sure your kid doesn’t spend all of their time behind a screen by establishing rules, and teaching etiquette, for when a phone can, and can’t be, in-hand.

Set Call and Texting Expectations

Probably one of the most important reasons you purchased a cell phone for your kid is so that you can easily communicate with your each other. Make sure to set expectations for communication. I.e. – if you call or text, they are expected to answer immediately or respond back within X minutes.

Lead By Example

It’s hard for kids to understand why it’s important to do something (like not texting at the dinner table) if you, the parent, are always doing it. Set the example by making sure to follow what you preach.

Internet Safety

Teaching your kids about internet safety can be hard if you don’t feel informed yourself. Resources like ConnectSafely and NetSmartz offer guides for parents to teach their kids, and themselves, more about being safe online.

The Parents Guide to Apps for Kids

Your kid wants to download an app but you’ve never heard of it. CommonSense Media offers reviews for digital content (like apps) specifically for parents. If you’re worried about an app being age appropriate, this is a good place to start your research.

Know What Your Kids are Doing

Learn how you can monitor what your kids are doing on their smartphones with these on-device functionalities.