Cell Phones - Friend or Foe in Your Family?

Did you ever feel as though your child’s cell phone has become his or her best friend?  Where ever your child goes, so does the phone?  You are not alone!!

Parents can set limits on the phone – a device that has become essential for everyday life.  Not only is it our right, but our responsibility.  Here are some suggestions on how to create a healthy attitude and appropriate behavior with cell phones in your family:

  • Create a contract with your partner on rules and expectations regarding cell phones.  Make sure you are on the same page and agree before presenting the plan to your child.  Discuss potential consequences for violating the contract and make sure that both of you are prepared to follow through. Create wording in the contract that is clearly stated and not open to interpretation.
  • Be clear about “no cell phone” zones such as the dinner table, during homework, in the bedroom during sleeping hours, on family outings, etc.
  • Set a “phone curfew” – phones should not be used in bed after a certain time.  A good night’s sleep depends on turning screens off and allowing your mind some downtime to rest. Cell phones can disrupt sleep as texts, emails and notifications come in throughout the night. If your child needs it for the alarm in the morning then go out and buy an alarm clock.
  • Passwords are shared, not secret: as the parents you have the right to check the phone whenever there’s a need.  A private password is a privilege that comes with trust built on responsible use (note: this may come when your child leaves for college!).  Add more privacy as your child grows and proves that he or she can follow the rules.
  • Naked or explicit pictures are a NEVER – to send or receive. Explain the consequences of a personal photo getting out and around.  There are social, legal, psychological and future reputation consequences.
  • Do not text and drive yourself!: be a role model for the behavior you expect.  Research current data on the high incident of motor vehicle accidents due to texting and driving. Perhaps put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode or place it out of arms reach.  Talk with your family or play a game instead.  Model for them that there is entertainment outside of that phone!

Cell phone are amazing devices that have become engrained in our lifestyle.  We cannot expect to our kids to exist in our current culture without them. The goal is to co-exist with technology and not be ruled by it.  Setting rules and modeling expected behaviors around cell phone use is a good way to help form lasting healthy habits for your entire family.