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Suggested Family Cell Phone Guidelines


Seems like kids are getting cell phones younger and younger these days! This post is one I’m only doing because of requests. Several years ago, as our boys became teens, we decided to get cell phones for them—primarily so we could get a hold of them in relation to school and youth group outings. It was a good decision, but a scary one too!

Aside from triple checking that the phones couldn’t access internet, picture mail, and other features—we also had a family meeting on that first night. With my computer open, we sat together and hammered out some family guidelines for how we would use these phones. The following ten guidelines are what we came up with. They are as much a product of the kids as the parents input.

Here’s what we wrote that night as a family:

Having a cell phone in the Schmidt family is a privilege, not a right!  As a privilege, it must be earned by mature responsibility.

It’s a tool, not a toy.

The primary purpose of these cell phones is for communication with Mom and Dad, so that we can stay connected as a family.

  1. Any infraction of the following rules will result in the loss of all cell phone use immediately.
  2. Cell phones must be cared for properly.  They get charged every night, they are never to be in your pocket during play times.
  3. Cell phones are not to be used during school or church.
  4. Cell phones are not to be loaned to friends.   Friends may use the phone only to make a quick call to parents when there is no other option.
  5. Calls may be made or received to family and approved friends only.
  6. All calls should be as brief as possible.
  7. Calls to or from girls are not permitted.
  8. All calls must have a specific purpose.  No chit-chatting or idle talking is permitted.
  9. No text messaging, except to Mom or Dad. (this one has since been revised slightly)
  10. You will be required to pay for your own bill if you use more minutes than allowed.

The funniest result of these guidelines was the day (a couple years later) that I got my iPhone and started playing a game. Larry immediately quoted my first line, using his best “dad-impersonation” voice— “Cary, a cell phone is a tool not a toy!” We both laughed real hard at that—and that rule was quickly revised! 🙂

These lines have been occasionally crossed (usually out of forgetfulness) over the years, which made us very glad we had talked through them. They gave us a reference point for correction and appropriate discipline. They’ve pretty much remained in tact over the years—although, they will be revised as these guys grow older.

These may not be your same guidelines, but maybe they will get you thinking and talking as a family! Please share your thoughts and additional comments.

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  • We have 3 children; 10, 9 and 7. Two boys with a girl in the middle. This advice is very useful. I agree there are many dangers here! One problem I also see is that phones have unlimited internet and cameras. I want them to become more responsible before I give them that privilege. I have seen many families in churches struggle and teens fall in to sin via their phones. Picture messaging, myspace, and all the social networks plus the aim and yahoo texting clients built in make it difficult to close all the holes. There definitely has to be some training and trust. It’s a tool, even though it can be a very entertaining toy at times when used rightly.

  • You’re right—it’s a lot of work to close the holes. We should do our best, but we really can’t do that forever. That’s where the training is so critical. I also believe that every parent has to monitor use on a regular basis—not with a spirit of trying to catch them doing something wrong, but with a spirit to teach them, protect them, and guide them through the minefield. Thanks for reading!


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