Cell Phones for Kids

How to Keep Track of Your Children in the Cell Phone Age

Communicate rules and expectations with your child about her cell phone so she understands the requirements for having one. Monitor your child’s cell phone use. Know your child’s password, examine contact lists, text message and email history and Internet usage, if applicable. Make a rule about your child keeping her cell phone on and answering your calls and text messages promptly. Connect specific consequences with your child for not following rules or adhering to expectations to institute a complete system of requirements and consequences.

Monitor your child’s usage of the cell phone regularly to stay attuned to how he uses the device and what he does.

Check your monthly cell phone account summary to learn about specific usage. Check text message activity such as the number of messages, the timing of the messages and the message contacts. Look at the amount of data your child used. If you see large data usage, your child might be using a smart phone for online gaming or video viewing. If your child misuses the cell phone, institute a promised consequence.

Call your child when she’s away from home, to stay connected. Require your child to call you when she gets to a destination or when she leaves one location to travel to another.

Use a tracking program with your child’s cell phone to keep track of both cell phone activity and her whereabouts when she’s not home. Some cell phone providers offer tracking services as a part of a family plan, or you might need to pay an additional fee to have this service added to your plan. If your cell phone provider does not offer a tracking service, purchase a separate program such as Mobistealth, which tracks both activity and location, or AccuTracking, which tracks location only.

Tip

The American Academy of Pediatrics has not released a specific recommendation for an appropriate age for giving a child a cell phone. Instead, the AAP recommends that each family must weigh the reasons for a child having a cell phone to determine whether a need exists.

Warning

Many tracking programs require the “trackee” to provide permission for tracking. Ensure your child enables tracking and agrees not to disable it.

Punishment for Texting in Class for Your Teen

School Policies

The predominant school policy regarding student cell phone use is to disallow students from using a cell phone at all during school hours, according to the National School Safety and Security Services website. If your teenager’s school has a cell phone ban in effect and an established consequence for breaking the rule, this serves as a natural consequence for your teenager. Part of the school’s stated consequence might include parental involvement. For the school policy and consequence to be effective with a teenager, parental compliance and support is essential.

Home Consequences

When your child faces consequences at school for breaking cell phone rules, it’s usually best to allow the school to handle the infraction, advises social worker Carole Banks, with the Empowering Parents website. Unless the behavior involves destruction of property or physical harm to someone, or if your child continues to break the same rule, the school holding your child accountable is the most effective way to correct your child’s misbehavior.

Communication

Once your child has a history of breaking a school’s stated cell phone policy, communicate with your teenager about how you will proceed to ensure compliance. Tell your teenager that you will monitor your child’s use going forward to ensure that additional issues do not occur. Communicate a consequence you will institute if your child breaks the texting rule again, such as grounding your child from his cell phone for several days or one week.

Following-through

Check your cell phone bill monthly to note the times your child is sending text messages, advises Marge Monroe and Doug Fodeman, authors of “Racing to Keep Up.” If you find that your child is continuing to text during class times, follow-through with the promised consequence to discourage your child from texting and breaking rules.

How to Check Your Kids' Phone Messages

Talk to your child about using a phone responsibly and negotiate regular message checks as one of the terms for allowing your child to have her own phone. Explain that you don't want to check to spy on your child, but to look for possible danger or inappropriate messages. If your child balks at the terms, you may want to withhold the phone until she can agree.

Install a cellphone monitoring app on your child's phone. Dr. Phil.com suggests programs like TextGuard and My Mobile Watchdog, both of which are applications that are installed on the cellphone but viewed remotely on your computer. That means you won't have to physically take your child's phone to check her messages -- you can simply open up the program on your computer and view things like texts and outgoing phone calls.

Ask to see your child's phone regularly and watch for her reaction. If the idea of you listening to or reading messages makes her nervous or angry, it could be a sign of contraband messaging, suggests Common Sense Media.

Look through your child's messages, only checking for dangerous or inappropriate content. If you scroll through some messages and see your child is talking about school crushes, close out the message, Steve Schlozman, a Harvard Medical School assistant professor of psychiatry, tells Family Circle magazine. You're not snooping to see what boy she likes -- you're looking for dangerous messages that could compromise her safety. Don't misuse your child's trust, and make sure you give her a little privacy.

Offer trust-based privileges if your child seems to be using her phone safely and according to your rules. While you might start with checking messages a couple times per week, if your child shows that she can use a phone responsibly, you can reduce those checks to once per week instead.

Tip

Avoid spying on snooping on your child's messages by looking when she doesn't know. This could cause her to feel as though you're violating her privacy and could damage your relationship. Instead, let her know you expect to check her messages and use it as a stipulation before she's allowed to have a phone.

How to Take Away a Teenage Daughter's Phone and Computer for Punishment

Ask to speak to your teen calmly, and talk about the negative behavior you've noticed. Your teen's grades might have taken a nosedive, or you may have noticed her spending less time with the family and more time connected to friends via computer and phone, for instance. Taking away technology privileges shouldn't be done in the heat of an argument, so wait until you feel ready to discuss the behavior and the consequences calmly.

Connect the behavior to her digital habits. If her grades are sliding, it could be the result of using her computer for social networking instead of studying. Create a direct correlation between the behavior and the consequence so that the punishment makes sense to your teen, suggests Empowering Parents. Taking away computer privileges because your teen missed curfew could miss the mark.

Give your teen a measurable amount of time that she can expect to not have her phone or computer available. Keep the amount of time short so it is impactful -- the act of taking away a prized possession is already effective, notes Mayo Clinic. You can even mark it on the computer so your teen has an exact date to look toward. This shows that, while she's being disciplined, you're fair about the punishment terms.

Talk to your teen about the alternatives she can use while she's grounded from technology. She might not be able to have her own laptop, for instance, but she can use the family computer in the living room if she needs to do schoolwork, or she can take your phone if she needs to contact you while out of the house. It's important to be fair but clear about rules during the grounding period.

Give your teen's phone and computer back with the stipulation that she must follow rules if she expects to keep her tech gadgets. It's an excellent opportunity to sit down with your teen and explain what you expect in the future so your teen is clear on rules and boundaries when it comes to using her phone and computer.

Tips for Cutting Down a Teen's Phone Use & TV Time

Parental Example

Kids often follow their parents' leads, notes the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website. When you want to encourage your teen to moderate cell phone and television usage, model the kinds of behavior you want from your teen. Resist the urge to seem inseparably connected with your own cell phone. And keep your own television usage down as well.

Bedroom Oasis

If teenagers have electronics available to them in the bedroom, it can get tough to control screen time and electronics use, states the American Academy of Pediatrics. This easy access can often lead to overuse, even affecting the amount of sleep your child gets. Remove the television from your teen's bedroom and insist that he leave his cell phone to charge overnight in a common area of the house to cut down on his usage of these devices.

Usage Rules

Teenagers use entertainment media for about seven hours every day, according to 2013 information from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP recommends that teenagers not use entertainment media for more than two hours each day to reduce problems with attention, sleep and school. Sit down with your teenager and have an open and honest discussion about the use of electronics and screen time. Explain to your teens that you want to bring their use of entertainment media back in line with AAP recommendations by instituting family usage rules for cell phones and televisions. Some rules to institute might be no television or cell phone use during meals and homework time -- and turning off all electronics at a specific time at night.

Encourage Activity and Socializing

Help your teen discover other activities that do not involve electronics and media. Encourage an active lifestyle to ensure that your teen gets the necessary exercise for a healthy body. You might even find activities you can do together, such as joining a gym or taking a bike ride. Encourage your teen to socialize and spend time with other people, pursuing interests or perhaps, volunteering.

How to Monitor Your Kid's Cell Calls

Speak with your child about cell phone rules to establish clear limits on daily use. Tell your child which times of the day are permissible for cell phone use and which times she cannot use her cell phone. If your cell phone plan has a limit on text messages, tell your child how many messages she can send and receive every day to stay in line with the plan limits.

Tell your child that in order to keep him safe with his cell phone, you want to have the ability to check his call log and message log occasionally, advises CommonSense Media. If you pay for your child’s cell phone, consider making this a requirement before buying the device for your youngster. Check your child’s cell phone periodically and randomly. If you find items of concern, increase the checks and consider imposing stricter limits on use to keep your child safe.

Contact your mobile service provider to inquire about parental controls for your child’s cell phone. For a small fee each month, you can probably add this feature that enables you to block your child’s cell phone from use during specific times of the day. Another feature of the service enables you to log in to your account online to track and monitor calls made, calls received, text messages sent and text messages received. Add this service to your contract, if you wish.

Use a separate cell phone monitoring service to monitor your child’s cell phone use. Services such as SpyMaster Pro and My Mobile Watchdog operate by registering the cell phone into the program on your computer. Once registered, you will receive a small file by email that you must install onto the cell phone for tracking. After you install the file, you can track the cell phone without your child’s knowledge by logging into the program on your computer and checking cell phone activity.

Tip

If your child violates safety rules or acceptable cell phone practices, have a direct conversation about the problems. You might need to restrict cell phone use or take it away completely until you feel confident that your youngster will use the cell phone properly.