How to Craft a Smartphone Use Policy with Your Teen

How to Craft a Smartphone Use Policy with Your Teen

Smartphones are an important part of modern teenager socialization. They’re also quite handy for parents – with a smartphone, you can always reach your teen if you need to. And, you know that your teen can always make an emergency phone call if they need to. But with all of these benefits come some potential pitfalls and dangers for your teen. It’s important to make sure that your teen uses their phone responsibly to avoid these problems. A smartphone use policy can help you do that. Here is some sage advice about creating one. 

What Is a Smartphone Use Policy?

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The apps and features of a smartphone give it as much power as a computer, and use should be monitored accordingly.

Essentially, a smartphone use policy is a set of rules that for your teen to follow. Continued use of the smartphone is contingent on following the rules. A common suggestion is to create an actual contract outlining these rules and the consequences for not following them.

Why a contract? Why not just say, “these are the rules?”

Well, teens are known to be headstrong. It’s developmentally normal for teens to test the boundaries of the rules that they’re given and challenge your authority. And to some extent, that’s fine – it’s part of the process of becoming an adult. But when it comes to things that can have serious and potentially dangerous consequences, like cyberbullying, sexting, or sharing personal information online, it’s important to go the extra mile to impress upon your teen that these are not the places to test the boundaries. Furthermore, having a contract to point to can curtail arguments and misunderstandings later – it’s harder to argue that you haven’t broken a rule when the rule is documented.

What Should Be Included in a Smartphone Use Contract?

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Make sure to include rules about when your child can use their phone as well as how they can use it. No texting while driving!

Before you discuss the smartphone use contract with your teen, it’s important to think about what you want to include in the contract. There are a variety of angles you should consider when it comes to crafting rules to include in your smartphone use policy.

For example, sending inappropriate pictures or text messages over the phone. You also have to consider smartphone use in school – will you require your teen to leave their phone in their locker, or just not use it in class? (Keep in mind that in some schools, teachers allow and even encourage smartphone use in conjunction with classwork, so take that into account when drafting rules.) Don’t forget to be specific – it’s not enough to just say “don’t text and drive”. Will you require your teen to turn their phone off when driving? Or is using a hands-free device good enough?

How Will You Enforce a Smartphone Use Policy?

Rules are useless if you can’t enforce them. In order to impose consequences, you need to know if your child is following the rules, and that means monitoring the way your child uses their smartphone. This can be one of the trickiest parts of a smartphone use policy. Your teen is liable to agree with many of your rules that are designed with their safety in mind, but they may very well balk at the idea of you checking their texts or the browser history on the phone or installing parental monitoring software.

By the time your child is a teenager, it’s fair for them to expect some privacy. But you can’t keep them safe without some oversight. It’s important to have an honest conversation with your teen. Make it clear that you’re not interested in snooping, but that some level of monitoring is nonnegotiable.

Monitoring software can help you look for potential signs that your teen is in trouble or engaging in dangerous behavior with their phone. To find out how it works, get our free trial.