Nothing is more exciting and terrifying than handing over that first cell phone to your child. Your child is excited—you are terrified.
Using a phone with several parental controls that slowly rolls out more features eases some of that fear, but there are so many unwritten rules about cell phone etiquette that even parents are unsure about.
Here are five rules to keep in mind when you have that “cell phone” talk. To make your expectations crystal clear, role play what using a cell phone both right and wrong looks like so your child is comfortable using their cell phone in a way that is both polite and aware.
- Nothing online is private. Be very clear about this. It is easy for kids, especially younger ones, to assume what they do or say online won’t be shared, but with screenshots, nothing ever really goes away. Remind your kids that before they send, say, or share something online, they should be comfortable with ANYONE— including parents or the person they are texting about—reading it.
- Reply. Communication is the whole reason for having a phone, so teach your kids to use it in a way that increases their connections. When someone sends them a text, teach them to reply promptly, especially if it is an adult they know who needs a question answered. They can let silly gifs go, but if someone needs information from them, teach your kids not to ignore the text. And mom and dad should ALWAYS be replied to quickly and thoroughly.
- Keep it on silent. If your child is in a public place, their phone should be on silent. People should not hear the video they are watching, their FaceTime conversation with their buddy, or the game they are playing. Teach your kids to put headphones in, watch without sound, or wait until later.
- Be present. If your child is in a room with people, those people take priority over whatever is happening on your child’s phone. Teach kids not to scroll while watching a movie or Snapchat other people while hanging out with friends. Your child should choose to be engaged and enjoy what or who is in front of them instead of wondering what else is going on. This will help your kids connect and build stronger relationships.
- Open your ears. When your child is with people, their headphones or earbuds should not be in their ears. It doesn’t matter if they are on, off, or turned down; headphones should be put away when your child is in the company of others. Teach your kids to save headphones for a time when they are alone. This is a simple way to show the people they are with that your child cares about them and values their time together.
Sharing these tips with your child (and following them yourself) will help both of you have a much more successful and connective cell phone experience.
*You can find these tips and 47 other great ones in Brooke’s book, 52 Modern Manners for Today’s Teens on Amazon.