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My oldest son didn’t get his first cell phone until his thirteenth birthday. It didn’t have many bells and whistles but came with the promise that if he didn’t lose it or break it we would upgrade the following year. A year passed and we got him a nicer phone and then our fears were realized. We started to run into problems with irresponsible usage such as using his phone at inappropriate times, viewing and downloading content that wasn’t age appropriate and excessive use. Because of those problems he eventually had his phone privileges revoked until he could show more responsibility.
Now that he is fifteen and a sophomore in high school my husband and I decided that it was time to get him another cell phone. We discussed our expectations, set the ground rules, and added some safeguards so we could have peace of mind and he could once again have more freedom. If your tween or teen is at the age where you’re considering getting them a cell phone, here are some of the ground rules that we’ve put in place in our house.
Set clear rules
Discuss your rules of cell phone use with your teen and be sure that they stick to them. Be clear about time limits and what time the phone is to be turned in for the night. In our house, we also have the rule that we must follow each other on social media and can check the phone at any time.
Care and responsibility
Having a cell phone is a privilege and they should take good care of their phones. Their phone is their responsibility and if it is lost or broken, they are responsible for repairing or replacing it.
Install a watchdog app
The biggest problem we faced was our teen sneaking his phone up to his room at night and staying up until all hours playing games. This meant that he wasn’t getting much sleep and was starting to perform poorly at school. With a watchdog app, we are able to block out times that he isn’t allowed to use his phone. Our off times are from 9:00 pm to 6:30 am and during this time the phone is password protected. We also get a daily summary emailed to us that lets us monitor app downloads, texts, photos, and email.
Talk to them about etiquette and safety
Teens often have a hard time seeing beyond the moment. Talk to them about bullying and remind them that the Internet, inappropriate text messages and photos, and their social media accounts are out there for the world to see, including college admissions departments and potential employers. That inappropriate photo or text that they send today could negatively impact them for years to come.
If your teen is driving, get them in the habit of turning their phone off and putting it out of arm’s reach as soon as they get in the car. There are also apps available that will shut down a phone while they are in a moving vehicle.
T-Mobile Simply Prepaid
With prepaid plans, we’re not stuck with a contract in the event that our teen needs to be restricted from his phone. T-Mobile Simply Prepaid has several different account settings so we have more control over the content that he is allowed to view. In addition to a regular account, we had the option of choosing between child, teen, or young adult access. Now I have the peace of mind that he will not be able to access web content that is inappropriate for children under the age of 17.
Don’t settle for second-rate prepaid wireless; T-Mobile Simply Prepaid is just $40 dollars a month for 4G LTE data with unlimited talk and text. My fifteen-year-old has a better plan than I do! There are also no overages to worry about, which is great for teens who may lose track of their limits.
I would love to hear about your additional tips for teaching your teens about cell phone responsibility and safety.