Cell Phone Guidelines for Kids

This may date me a bit, but when I was in high school, I had a pager.  I know… pagers!  We actually weren’t even allowed to have our pagers at school if we owned one, but I got special permission from the principal to carry one.  Kinda a long story, but I lived REALLY far from my high school, and kinda needed it to keep in touch with my Mom.  Since you really only had numbers to work with, you would develop codes with your friends.  Like 47-911 could mean Chris needs to speak with me ASAP!  Her “number” would be the 47 and the 911 meant EMERGENCY!  We didn’t have full QWERTY keyboards and unlimited texting plans.

Of course the technological times have changed, and so have the rules.  You need to set some ground rules for your children and any sort of technology they own.  Here are some things you can do to make sure they aren’t getting into trouble with their devices.  Cell phones and a texting plan can really help you to stay in communication with your child, as long as it is being used appropriately.

1. Check with your cell phone carrier.  See what kinds of monitoring or restrictions you can put on the phone.  Sometimes you can make the phone non-operational during times of the day you set.  You can set it so it can not be used during school hours or the late hours of the night.  If you have a set dinner and family time routine you can also set it so it doesn’t work during those times of the day as well.

2. Discuss appropriate messages.  Make sure you let them know that you are able to get a report from the phone company of all of the texts and photos they have sent.  Just knowing that you are monitoring it will help.  Discuss that anything they send can be forwarded, long after they have sent it.  Let them know that if they wouldn’t shout it out in the middle of the cafeteria, then they probably shouldn’t post it online or send it in a text.  This includes suggestive texts and gossip.

3. Talk about appropriate times.  Even if you are able to shut off the phone during the non-appropriate times, make sure your child knows why the phone doesn’t work at those times.  Family time, driving time, sleeping and studying time all need to be free of texting distractions.  My niece is only 14 and she can send a LOT of messages in a short amount of time.  You would be surprised how much they can send.  You and I may send a text here and there, about once or twice an hour.  They can send HUNDREDS!  If you don’t allow the phone near them when they are studying, eating with the family, driving, etc then it can be a serious distraction.  I recommend  creating a spot in the back seat of the car, or even the trunk for a place to put the cell phones so it’s not even in reach while on the road.

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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com


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  • I am starting my kids off nice and slow with their cell phones. First, they are getting a TracFone — prepaid cell phone. I can manage the amount of minutes that they use and don’t have to worry about spending so much money on contract phones if they aren’t going to use them. The minutes are cheap and the phones are good quality. Next, I control when they use it. They take the phones with them to school. Once they get home…they have an hour to finish up any conversations with friends. After that hour is up, it’s family time and the phones are put to charge till the next day. Great idea for kids first cell phones.

  • My 3 kids have kajeet phones. We get free parental controls with the phones and there’s no contract so if a phone get’s broken or goes missing we just stop paying. (Or if your kid get’s grounded from the phone, you are not stuck paying on a contract!) We can control everything from when the phones can be used to who is allowed to call them and vice versa. My 9 yr old essentially has an emergency backpack phone. For $4.99 a month he has a way to get a hold of us in case of emergency. We set his account up so that only mom, dad and grandma can call him. No other numbers will go through. That’s a super cheap piece of mind if you ask me! As he gets older we’ll decrease the restrictions and allow him more freedom with the phone. Our local parenting magazine has a coupon for kajeet. Save 15% on kajeet with promo code: 1115 (I hope that’s okay to post, I love saving money!)

  • I’ve also made the jump into cell phones for the kids and started with Tracfone. It just seemed so logical to me. No contract, low costs to get and low to maintain. The parents control the amount of minutes and once they are used up, no more usage, including texting. So, they are actually learning how a budget works. If they go over, well, there is always next month!

  • I really loved this. For me sending my kids off to junior high without a cellphone absolutely blows my mind. I was soooo scared to have them have no way to contact me in case of an emergency but at the same time I don’t really have the money to get them both those amazing smartphones and iphone things. I heard they range like a 100 dollar a month… and with two kids.. its just not feezible. So I got them each a tracfone prepaid phone and I really don’t have anything bad to say. They know they can’t talk on an unlimited basis and they at first were like.. oh we will need more minutes… but you would be surprised how much they actually do talk! I spent at most 30 dollars a month per phone and they text all the time!