Cell phones are part of kids’ lives. That’s just how it is. Of course, not every parent allows mobile phone use. But, the trend towards having tech-savvy children is on a definite upwards swing. Roughly three-fourths of kids, 13- through 17-years, either have or have access to a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. If your child is going to have a cell phone, then you need a contract. Why? Most simply stated – so that your child knows, and agrees to follow, the rules.
This is the section where you agree how much, when and where your child can use their cell. Get specific, writing the number of hours (or hours and minutes) that your child is allowed to use the phone per day. Include the times of day that your child can use the phone (such as “only after school”) and when they have to turn it off by (how many hours before bedtime is cut-off time?). You can get even more detailed and add places that cell phone use is prohibited, such as at the dinner table or in grandma’s house.
You want to keep your child safe from online predators. With that in mind, you’re all about social media and Internet privacy. It’s likely that your child will use (or eventually use) their phone to connect with friends on Facebook, tweet on Twitter or play group games. Set clear standards for what your child can, and can’t, share. This should include information such as their name (first, last, neither, one or the other both), birthday (date, month, year), location, school, photos and anything else you consider “private” or identifying.
From the cell phone lock to your child’s email account, it’s likely that the mobile has more than enough passwords and passcodes on it. Depending on your own views of personal privacy and supervision, you may want access to some of those (or all of them). Clarify what you have permission to know and use.
Maybe you have an unlimited data plan. Great! This really doesn’t need to become part of your child’s cell phone contract. But, if you don’t have a completely unlimited plan, the contract can specify allowable data usage. Let’s say your child uses their smartphone to download videos from YouTube. There’s a lot of data usage going on. Outline the amount of data your child may use (or, if it’s easier or your child to understand, the amount of time that they can spend online or texts and emails that they can send).
Smartphones bring the Internet into your child’s hands. The cell phone contract needs to spell out what okay Internet use is. Specify websites that are allowed and the types of social media your child can use. This should look like the rules you have for the home computer or tablet. If you don’t want your child using the cell phone for anything other than making calls, add in a “no online use” policy for everyone to sign off on.
Even though your child is signing off on the rules, it’s always possible that they’ll break them. This is where the consequences come in. Agree on realistic and meaningful consequences for each type of infraction. Now your child knows what happens if the contract is broken in any way. Having a phone is a privilege, and not a right. Your child needs to know that while she might want the cell phone, she doesn’t need one. If she can’t follow the rules, you have the ability (per the contract) to take it away.