First Cell Phone Rules for Tweens and Teens

Planning to give your child the first mobile phone of her life? Here are some ground rules for phone usage that you need to lay down for her to follow

By Kavitha Ravi

First Cell Phone Rules for Tweens and Teens

A cell phone is just about the most thrilling addition to a teen’s life. It opens many avenues of communication and entertainment for young people. The possibilities seem to be limitless, but with all the possibilities also come the responsibilities. After all, the cell phone is no longer an instrument for just making conversation but has so many other functions.

A study conducted by Murdoch University in Perth, Australia among teenagers in the 13-16 years age group found that poor quality sleep associated with late-night texting or calling, was linked to a decline in mental health, such as depressed moods and declines in self-esteem and coping ability, according to a report in Guardian.  

The onus of guiding children through the exciting and often, confusing world of mobile phone usage, falls on the parents. They have to set the rules and enforce them from the moment the phone reaches the child. While a smartphone can be a valuable learning tool, the exposure it gives your child can be overwhelming and at times, dangerous as well. As a parent you need to safeguard your child from the pitfalls that a phone can bring into her life.

So here are some ground rules to lay down when it comes to cell phone usage --

1. Limiting time

It is easy to get hooked to the cell phone and all that it has to offer. Many adults will not take their eyes off their phones even when having a conversation with another person. So, for children it can soon turn into an obsession. Limit the time your child gets with the phone so it doesn't become addictive. You can set the number of hours your child uses a mobile phone. Be firm about not taking the phone to bed. This habit, if left unchecked in the beginning, will lead to lack of sleep, which in turn will affect all other major facets of their lives such as  education and concentration.

2. Camera restrictions

Taking pictures and videos are a part and parcel of having a phone. But you need to educate your child about taking the right kind of pictures. This means that he must be careful about clicking photos of himself, his family and friends. Have some specific rules about selfies and where to take them. Also, nothing compromising or risque even in the name of fun. Remind him that in the wrong hands those fun pictures and videos can amount to disaster. So, advise him that the best course of action is to not take them in the first place. He also needs to keep another person’s privacy in mind, while clicking photos.

3. Sharing is not always caring

If you have to give your preteen a phone, then make sure that she does not download inappropriate data. . Also, restrict your child from uploading any data onto the net, as she may not be aware of the veracity of the information she is sharing. Children need to understand that even though they might think a download is harmless, it might not be what it seems. In the most ideal scenario, your child should seek your permission before downloading or uploading any data.

4. Texting is a no-no when driving

This is for the older teens who will get their driving license at 18 years. Parents need to enforce rule as texting and driving is not only be dangerous for children, it can also put other people’s lives in danger. . Their eyes should always be on the road and the phone should not even be in their line of vision while driving. Tell them to use their phones only when safely parked and off the road.

5. No phone during school

While most schools strictly prohibit children from bringing phones to the school campus, children are not beyond trying to sneak it into their classrooms. So ensure that there is a designated drop off area for phones in the house. This is where the children should be told to leave their phones every day before going to school and collect it once they get back. This leaves no room for doubt.

6. Phone etiquette in public

Teenagers may sometimes be so engrossed in their mobile phones that they do not see the time and place that they are doing it. Make you tween/teen understand that whipping out the mobile phone in certain public places and at gatherings, may be considered rude. When he is in the company of his family or having a conversation with another person, he is not to meddle with his phone. This can be enforced during meals or outing with the family if the parents feel the need. You must also advise your teenager to keep his phone switched of or in silent mode in a movie theatre or in a public place where cellphones are not allowed. .

Parents are required to lead by example if they truly want their children to cooperate. Children often learn things by observing the behavior of adults around them. So that means no phones for you when you are driving and sleeping. Let your children know that having a phone in their teens is a privilege and that abusing that privilege comes at a cost. While children may try to work their way around the rules, it is up to the parents to keep an eye on the children's activities without dropping the ball.