Know! Family Cell Phone Contract

Three out of four teens nationwide own a cell phone (one in four own smartphones – providing increased access to the internet and endless downloadable apps, for better or worse). But whether our kids are real-time photo sharing or plain old texting, the cell phone, smart or not, is the number one communication tool among our nation’s youth.

Here’s what a recent survey revealed about how cell phone-owning adolescents communicate with their friends and family, on an everyday basis: 39% make daily calls on a cell phone; 35% socialize face-to-face outside of school daily; 29% visit an online social network site each day; only 19% talk on a landline daily; and a mere 6% use email every day. But a whopping 63% of teens report that not a day goes by without exchanging text messages with friends/family; and the typical 14 to 17-year-old texter is likely to send around 100 texts a day.

As parents, it is our job to help our children communicate appropriately. If you are the parent of a tween/teen, you are likely in one of three positions:

  1. Your child is new to the cell phone scene and needs guidelines on usage;
  2. Your child is a seasoned cell phone user, but could use a refresher on the rules;
  3. Your child is begging for a cell phone and you are considering the idea.

If you are one of the few parents who haven’t been hit with it yet, just know that it is likely coming and be prepared. Because when it comes to the owner’s manual for cell phones, there is a great deal of important information missing; like minding your manners and being responsible.

Parents: This is where the Family Cell Phone Contract comes in handy. It’s about setting clear rules and expectations for the privilege of owning or having access to a cell phone. It also spells out consequences for falling short of what has been agreed upon and what to expect if that happens.

Click here to download and print your copy. Feel free to adjust it to fit your family’s needs. We then suggest posting it somewhere visible as a reminder of what has been agreed upon by both parties.

One final suggestion for parents is to consider the cell phone to be another positive opportunity to reach out to your children. Though we don’t want message exchanges to replace face-to-face conversations with your child, we highly recommend you try using their preferred method of communication as an additional opportunity to stay in touch and to reach them with uplifting, encouraging and drug-free messages.

Resources: Pew Internet & American Life Project: Teens, Smartphones and Texting, 2012. Dr. Kathleen Trainor: Cell Phone Etiquette for Teens, 2011. Kids, Cell Phones and the Tween Years.