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7 Ground Rules to Set When Giving A Kids Phone To Your Child

Friday, 16 October, 2020

Jana Dalby

Just over a decade ago, smartphones became commonplace in pockets. The 35% of Americans who took the plunge in 2011 has now grown to more than 85%. This had made smartphones a staple of daily life in just a few years. 

But we’re talking adults here, right? These are people who understand the potential dangers of the internet, as well as the risks of smartphone addiction and reliance, right? Not quite. 

Today, just over half of children in the U.S. now own a smartphone by age 11. Yes, you read that correctly: over half. It’s no wonder that many kids expect a phone by the time they finish grade school.

When you decide your child really is ready for their first kids phone, you need to set some ground rules to ensure they use it in a safe and healthy manner:

1. Limits can change

When you give your child their phone, accompany it with a list of limits. Safeguards like screen-time restrictions can hold kids accountable and help you monitor what they’re doing on their devices. 

Remember, the phone belongs to you as much as it does to them. Remind them that the cell phone’s limits are always up for discussion and can be altered as you see fit. 

2. It’s not a toy

As a parent, a cell phone is one of the first big technological investments you’re likely to make on behalf of your child. Although it’s natural for your kids to be excited, be clear that the phone is for their safety, not their entertainment. 

Children should be trusted not to lose this investment on the school bus, at an extracurricular activity, or at a friend’s house. They need to understand that there are consequences for treating their phone like a toy. That consequence could include losing it altogether.  

3. Parents’ calls must be picked up

The key benefit of giving your child a phone is the ability to get a hold of them from anywhere, at any time. If they decide they don’t need to answer your calls, then what’s the point?

Multiple accidents, such as forgetting to charge a dead phone or forgetting to call back, should not be tolerated. If a child is mature enough to request their own phone, then they’re mature enough to keep track of and care for it. 

Insist that your child pick up the phone whenever you call. Whether they’re with friends or listening to music, they should prioritize your calls — period. Explain that if you call your child and don’t hear back for hours, you might begin to think the worst. 

4. Bragging is forbidden

If you are able to provide your child with a cell phone, that’s great news for your family. You can ensure that your child can always get in contact with you, and you can feel a little bit more at ease sending them to extracurriculars or other events without you. 

With that said, not every family can afford to provide their child with a kids phone. Remind your child that their first phone is a privilege for your whole family. And that it is not something to be shoved in the face of others. 

5. Curfews must be taken seriously

Along with their first phone, kids need a technology curfew. Beware, though, that kids can and will find ways around the rules.

Depending on their age and past behavior, you might ask that your kid bring his or her phone to you every night at the agreed-upon curfew. If your child consistently demonstrates responsible behavior, you could trust that they police themselves as a reward.

However you choose to do it, make it clear that this phone curfew is not a suggestion. If it’s violated, perhaps they have to retire the device before dinner. A child who’s doing a great job with household chores, on the other hand, might see their phone curfew pushed back a bit as a reward.

6. Spot checks will happen

How will you know whether or not your child is using their kids phone as you ask? By making random checks part of your toolbox. Make clear that you’ll occasionally ask to check their device. That means that there will be penalties for finding inappropriate behavior or content on it.

Don’t think of it as spying; realize that it’s responsible parenting. After all, you purchased the device, and you want to see your kids succeed.

7. School phone rules will be enforced

There’s truth in the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Some of the most important citizens in your child’s village are their teachers, tutors, and principals.

As a parent, it’s important that you support and enforce the school’s rules. If the school’s policy is to keep all phones locked in lockers between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., then it’s a good bet your child is in violation if they send you a text at noon. Communicate openly with your child’s teachers. Let them know if you suspect your son or daughter isn’t following their rules. 

Most importantly, let your child know that these ground rules aren’t meant to punish them; they’re meant to ensure that their kids phone is being used safely and properly. Once you decide it’s time for their first phone, it’s up to you to help them take the responsibility seriously.