Its one thing to talk about cell phone rules for your teens. But its an entirely different scenario to actually set them and then enforce them consistently. And in this case, the cell phone rules you set for your teens are as important for you to follow as it is for them. If ever there was a massive trap for the “Do as I say, not as I do.” parenting pitfall this is it.
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We’ve always had cell phone rules, but navigating them has become the bane of my existence. We are that old fashioned family who provides a cell phone at 12 years old only for calls, no texting or online access until high school, and even then limited exposure on social networks and more. So in theory, its easy to teach our children self control with basic tools and limited access…right?
Not so fast. A few years ago we used a crazy cheap upgrade for our sons to get iPhones. The penny deal came at just the right time ~ each had a phone that was dying, missing buttons, broken cases, a train wreck of their own doing with us not willing to pay big money for anything more. So we made the leap and suddenly, what used to be my tall teens walking around with headphones for the iPod became headphones for the iPhone because all those songs were now on their phones. My boys love music which meant they had their phones on them all…the…time. And that meant access to time online was amplified and time spent on social networks, texting, and gobbling up our data plan watching videos went off the charts.
And I can’t stand the negative aspects of the digital influence on my kids lives and in our family dynamic.
I can’t stand that they want to always be connected which means always having something pull at their attention and always trying to do more than one thing at a time. And, of course, then annoyed when they are brought back into the moment because you somehow interrupted them.
I can’t stand that they don’t realize that texting with friends whilst in the midst of a real life conversation is rude. That its no different than talking with someone in person and in the middle of their sentence, turning to the person next to them and talking to someone else as if the first person wasn’t even there.
I can’t stand that they need online access for school now that can often require an email account and the need to check and upload assignments directly online, sometimes from their phones.
And I can’t stand that I have to be the tough guy, shutting off data plans when their usage nears the limit to avoid any fees. And hopefully teach them the lesson of reasonable consumption. Because I can’t stand that ongoing battle we have with teaching them how to use the online access their phones offer them responsibly in a world that is digitally addicted.
We are basically asking our kids to have natural self control in a world that neither expects the same nor models how to do it easily. So how do we do it as their parents? Set cell phone rules just like any other rules for our kids and then clearly outline them and the consequences that come for not following them as expected.
Conversations about controlling your personal data online are key for kids of all ages. Working with your children to increase their education and exposure with their safety and online data ownership in mind is just part of parenting today.
Don’t Use Phones in the Morning
Teen Cell Phone Rules ~ Our teens are up at 5:45 every morning and while I know they would like to listen to their music, once those headphones go on they are like bulls in a china shop, doors and cabinets slamming because they have no idea how loud they are. Our daughter isn’t up for 2 more hours and surely doesn’t need to wake up with them. As well, as soon as they turn them on, they move like molasses. Teaching life long habits of good time management and an organized morning matters more than any song.
Parent Cell Phone Rules ~ Our family deserves our full attention as we all start the day and making sure we are tuned into their needs as well as our own sets the stage for a positive morning. Things will be remembered, people will leave on time, hugs and kisses will be given, and we will all be happy as we tackle the day.
Don’t Text and Drive
Teen Cell Phone Rules ~ Its just that simple. We’ve taught them that while driving, the easiest solution is to simply turn off their phone. If its on, the ringer should be off and it should be stored in the glove box or center console unable to easily be noticed and definitely not heard. Or they can use the Drive Mode App from ATT.
Parent Cell Phone Rules ~ Ditto!
No Cell Phones at the Table for Family Time
Teen Cell Phone Rules: There was never any question about this. You simply can’t be focused on your family during dinner or family time if you are constantly checking your phone. Its like coming to the table or sitting in a group reading a book. That’s a solitary activity that needs no one at a time when the focus is to be part of a group.
Parent Cell Phone Rules: Nothing is more important than the time we have together with our kids. With each so active and our schedules like a revolving door, its rare we actually find ourselves all in one place making that total focus even more important. While its hard for us both to shut down because we are juggling those activities and trying to squeak in a bit more work where we can, its simply not allowed.
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Don’t Use Phones During Homework
Teen Cell Phone Rules ~ Trying to do homework with the temptation of social networks and jumping around with your playlist is like doing homework in a big group with music blaring. Rare is the teen who will do well with that level of distraction and so the easiest way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to keep the phone turned off or charging in another room.
Parent Cell Phone Rules ~ This applies during work or any home keeping task we have that needs to be completed in a limited amount of time. I’m 100% more effective if I don’t check my cell phone for updates of any kind no matter what I’m doing. So I put it on its charger in another room or simply turn it off until the task is done.
Unplug at 9:00 pm
Teen Cell Phone Rules ~ No different than when we were growing up, teaching our teens not to engage on social networks after 9:00 pm is like teaching them its not polite to call someone’s home phone after 9:00 pm. We are definitely in the minority on this one which is a true reflection of our 24/7 digitized society. But we believe firmly in this as it has clear ties to their ability to wind down and get to sleep on time as well. Our brains need time to quiet themselves so our bodies can rest and we all know how easy it is to get wound up.
Parent Cell Phone Rules ~ The proof is in the research that using technology before bedtime will affect my sleep, stress, and mental health. If I’m plugged in after 9:00 it often leads to my staying up too late and being tired the next day. If I’m plugged in after 9:00, I’m missing the short window I have with my teens to be there for them…just be present, able to talk, watch a show they want to watch, whatever it is. Because that’s what life with teens is like…you just need to be ready for them when they are. If I’m plugged in after 9:00, I’m missing time with my husband and with 3 very active kids, the only time we have is once the house quiets down.
No Cell Phones in Bedrooms
Teen Cell Phone Rules ~ From the start we placed a charging station in our bedroom for our kids phones. We made it clear we trust them but its to make sure they learn the discipline not to have it on their nightstand. Its not necessary and to be honest, it also protects them from the choices others might make about after hours texting. And the upside? We usually are all upstairs by 9:00 when they set them on the chargers and we always get to say goodnight.
Parent Cell Phone Rules ~ We are the opposite. Our phones charge downstairs in my office, making sure that we can’t get to them if we wanted to.
So what happens if these rules are broken? For the teens, they range from being taken for 2 days at first and longer if there is something more troubling. Texting after hours is a big one because that means the child has chosen to break more than a few rules with the hopes of not getting found out. For the parents, the broken rules send a message that our expectations for our kids are higher than those for ourselves and that quite honestly, they aren’t as important to us as we promise them they are. Ouch.
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If I’ve learned nothing about being a parent, whether we like it our not, our kids are watching and learn by our example. “Do as I say, and as I do” is tipping point for raising digitally savvy kids who are able to focus on real life, have actual conversations where they look people in the eye, and not constantly check their phones in the midst of others. Having cell phone rules that teach discipline and focus makes sense for us all. Tell me…
Do you have cell phone rules for teens and parents? Do they differ?
Thanks so much for stopping by ~ well see you next time!
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