Plan Cell Phone Usage with Your Teen

Many teens own cell phones. While they are convenient for parents to monitor and communicate with their youth, they require setting ground rules and clear expectations to avoid problematic situations.
Plan Cell Phone Usage with Your Teen - Articles


Cell phone ownership among teens has been growing steadily since 2009. Current statistics show that three-quarters of teens own cell phones. To reduce or eliminate possible problematic situations due to cell phone use, parents should establish ground rules and provide clear expectations.

One expectation could be that both parents and teens should answer their phone calls to each other as quickly as possible. Unanswered phone calls can cause frustration and fear and create distrust between the parent and child. When the teen answers the phone call, parents feel reassured that they have a connection with their child and assume a level of security. The teen also benefits because if his parent is comfortable with a situation, he gains confidence in feeling a level of independence from his parent; and he has the reassurance that his parent is just a phone call away.

Parents should also ensure their teen understands that talking on a cell phone in certain situations may be disruptive or rude. They should also discuss with their teen when talking on the cell phone is appropriate.

In addition, texting should be covered when discussing cell phone rules. Whether the text is comprised of words or a picture, text messages are permanently available for anyone to retrieve and receive. Teens need to understand that texts are eternal once the send button is pushed. Remind your teen to ask herself "what would my teacher or parents think if they read this text?" If the youth feels she would not want you or a teacher to see this text, she needs to recognize the text is probably not appropriate.

Some parents have drafted a contract in order for a teen to own a cell phone. Involving the teen in identifying the specifics of a contract can be helpful as youth are more likely to understand and follow the rules if they have been involved in creating them. Once the rules of cell phone ownership have been established, the parent should identify consequences that are appropriate for misuse and consistently use them.

Establishing ground rules and providing clear expectations for cell phone use in different situations can reduce or eliminate possible problematic situations and should be a primary consideration. Careful planning and understanding can help the teen gain more than just the knowledge of how to use this technology; this experience could also help the teenager develop a sense of self-confidence and independence.