Family, Kids & Relationships

How to set phone guidelines for tweens or teens getting their first phone

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If you’ve decided to get your child a smartphone or other internet-connected device that they’ll use independently, be sure they’re ready for that responsibility. That means they’ll need to understand and follow some important cell phone guidelines and rules.

Constant internet/device access comes with a lot of health and safety concerns — especially for developing brains. Social media, in particular, can pose a profound risk to children’s mental health and wellbeing, according to a recent advisory issued by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.

So first, be sure to read our guide to knowing whether your child is ready for a phone in the first place!

There are, of course, positive aspects of phone usage for teens who are ready — keeping in touch with you and with their friends, and having access to useful information. But once you’ve decided to let them have their own phone, how do you manage and enforce safe, healthy limits for tweens and teens who are getting more independent?

Introduce phone guidelines for tweens and teens using a family contract

Approaching your child’s device usage with a “contract” mindset is key. It shows them you’re serious, and that you’re ready to trust them with a lot of responsibility.

Click here for a printable Family Technology Contract, and try the following tips for making it work for your family!

When kids do get their own phone/device, here’s how to set appropriate limits for tech use:

  • Use a written contract for rules of technology use — here’s a printable teen phone contract to get you started!
  • Make sure they understand and agree on each rule. Discuss them for as long as you need to to get on the same page.
  • Agree on what happens if they don’t stick to the contract rules. Write up clear consequences, such as no phone access for X number of days for breaking certain rules.
  • Have each co-parent and caregiver review, discuss and sign the contract too.
  • Follow the phone guidelines yourself whenever possible. For example, no phones at the dinner table, asking permission before sharing photos of others, etc.