Setting Teenage Cell Phone Rules

I have two sons–a teen and a tween. The older one has a cell phone, and the younger is about to get one. For today’s Deep-Fried Friday, I wanted to talk about setting cell phone rules. What’s reasonable? What’s not?

In my teen years, I had several phone rules. No hogging the phone. There was no call waiting then. No calling anyone after 9:00 p.m. No calling boys. Yes, that was a rule in my house, unless it was an already-established boyfriend. At any time that I was talking, people could walk by and hear my side of the conversation. Privacy was thus limited.

All of these rules don’t work in today’s teen world. Kids text and tweet and get on Facebook, and unless we hover over them and watch the screen, we don’t know what all they’re doing on that little piece of technology. But experts agree that there need to be parameters, boundaries, rules, especially when you’re the one paying the cell phone bill.

So what should some of the rules be? In my house, here are some of the rules and principles we try to establish.

1. The cell phone gets turned off at night. During the school year, it’s 9 p.m. During summer, it’s 10 p.m. Kids need sleep, but the draw of chatting with a friend can be too much unless it’s just not an available option. I must keep my cell phone on during the night in case an emergency occurs and family needs to reach me, but why does a 13 year old need access to a phone at 3 a.m.? So we tell the boys the phone must get shut off at night.

2. Focus on people when you’re with people. These days, it’s not surprising to see two people–teens or adults–sitting at a restaurant table and fiddling with their phones. I even admit to having my husband ask me to put away my phone when we were on a date. (I was checking blog comments! LOL.) But it’s a good practice to set the phone down and spend time face-to-face when you have that opportunity. I recently saw this photo and thought it was a great idea for parties:

pic from

Phones are a wonderful way to connect with people who aren’t near you. However, when you are with someone, it should become a habit to give that person or people all or most of your attention.

3. When I call, you answer. One of the biggest reasons to get your kid a cell phone is for you, the parent, to be able to reach them. You may need to inform your child of a change in schedule, remind them of a task they need to do, or communicate how much they are your cutie-wootie-pie. Whatever your reason, you’re the parent, you pay the bill, and when you call, the kid should answer. Barring severe injury, zombie apocalypse, or unconsciousness, your communications to your child come first. So if I call or text my kid seven times, and get nothing back, I have to wonder what is the problem. And the answer better not be, “I was chatting on Facebook.” Thankfully, in my house, it’s usually something more oops-ish like “I forgot my phone.”

4. You break it, you buy it. We buy the first phone. If the teen breaks it, he must pay for repairs or a new phone. Or simply live with it. Unfortunately, my son dropped his cell phone in the first few months of having it, and he has for more than a year lived with a cracked screen. He is already saving up for the next phone and a protective cover. I consider this along the lines of that 16-year-old kid you knew growing up who wrecked his brand-new shiny sports car, and then his parents bought him another one! If you keep buying your kid sports cars or cell phones every time they break them, how motivated are they not to break them?

5. I pay attention, but I don’t snoop. My kids know that their accounts can be scanned by me at any time. I periodically pick up my son’s phone and scan through his text messages. Does this make him uncomfortable? A bit. However, I’m not reading the messages. I am not eavesdropping on his conversations. I’m looking for red flags–names of people I don’t know, extreme profanity, links to questionable websites, etc. If I find something, I want to be able to bring it to his attention, talk about it, and coach him through. Teenagers deal with a lot of pressure, and as a parent, I want to help him navigate the stormy waters. I would want to know if he was being bullied by someone through his phone, if he was being sent pornography, if he was being stalked or targeted in some way. And admittedly, I also want to know if my kid is behaving, more or less. So I pay attention, but I don’t catch all of the details.

6. You can talk to me about your concerns. If an image, video, or conversation comes through the cell phone that makes a son nervous, I want him to be able to talk to me about it. I have an “ask anything” policy in my house. That means my children won’t get in trouble if they ask an uncomfortable question. I’m willing to take the time to help my teen text a girl with courtesy and respect, if he wishes. I will answer what that textspeak means, even if it has three cuss words I don’t like. I will call the phone of that person who keeps calling and hanging up to figure out what’s going on. While there are rules for my sons, more importantly I have a relationship with them. The cell phone is a tool for connecting with others, and my kids may still need some parental assistance in dealing with others as they mature.

So what are your rules for cell phone usage? Do you think it’s reasonable to establish boundaries for teens? What were the rules you had as a teenager regarding the phone? As technology constantly changes, do you think we’ll have greater or less ability to help kids navigate the challenges?

Source: Your Teen for Parents – Taking Charge of Technology

Parental Proverbs and Phrases

Welcome to Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, where we creep through the English language labyrinth with a flashlight and a good dose of curiosity. Today, however, we might be hearing in our brains such admonitions as “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” or “Look where you’re going, not where you’ve been.”

Whatever the saying, you probably have some proverb stuck your head that your parents planted there by repetition in your childhood. Why not use clever language to instruct your kids? My parents passed on to me the following:

A thing worth doing is worth doing well. This was a nice way for my father to say, “Get your chore done, and do it right.” Also, it reminded us to give it our best with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and service.

Don’t upset the applecart. Never mind that the image of a street vendor selling fruit was not in this city girl’s mental Pinterest, my mother threw out that gem to remind us not to pick fights or overreact.

Come into port with all of your flags flying. No, we were not boat people. However, growing up in Corpus Chisti, Texas along the Gulf Coast, I saw plenty of boats. My father used this proverb to let us know how important it was to follow something through to the end. It was often pulled out after Spring Break when the desire of most teenagers is to let their flag sag and cross the end-of-school-year finish line in a ragged heap.

Shake a leg. Not really a proverb exactly, but I cannot count the number of times my mother suggested we be on time (or just a few minutes later instead of embarrassingly late) by using this phrase. It simply means to hurry up already!

Don’t toot your own horn. “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” Yet my father would remind us not to brag about ourselves. Let someone else give a compliment and thank them for it. But let your actions speak for themselves; no need to boast.

I find myself adopting my own parental sayings for my children. I suppose it’s a habit all of us parents have. Here are a few I’ve tried.

When you win, celebrate; when you lose, congratulate. You’ll find that I like rhyming sayings. I came up with this one for my son who started playing t-ball at 4 1/2 years old (he’d been begging to play for several months already). Learning good sportsmanship is a primary goal of athletic endeavors with children. This was a way for him to remember how to behave when things do and don’t go your way in a game.

Commentary unnecessary. I use this phrase a lot! When you have more than one child, at some point you will give instructions to one and the other will want to add their own commentary to what you’re saying. It can be as simple as “Oh yeah, what Mom said!” or “He also hasn’t finished his math homework and played video games for an hour.” Whatever the issue, I try to let the non-instructed child know that I’m the parent and I’ve got it covered. Thus, “commentary unnecessary.” At this point, however, I just say, “Commentary–” and my children finish, “unnecessary.”

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around. Well, I did try this one out. It seemed perfect for those times when we need to get serious about cleaning, getting ready, eating, etc., but instead my children are messing around and wasting time. As it turned out, Talking Heads lyrics were a little wasted on munchkins born post-1990. It’s fallen by the wayside. *sigh*

I’m wondering what I should add to my repertoire and what other parental proverbs and phrases are being used out there. So whatcha got? What parental sayings do you recall from your childhood? What sayings have you repeated with your children?

And to leave you with the mother of all parental proverbs and phrases, here is the fabulous comedian Anita Renfroe with The Mom Song, to the tune of the William Tell Overture:

By the way, I’m guest posting today over at Nicole Basaraba’s blog as part of her series on genre. I’m taking a look at Young Adult (YA) Fiction.