Cell phones are more than just a phone to a teenager. They are their link to the friends, status, and world. They use them to connect with friends, read, do homework, shop, play games, find out what time practice is, talk to their sibling at college, etc. To parents, it seems like there is really almost nothing you can’t do with a cell phone these days. That trend will continue into the future.

So how can we as parents expect to be able to control our teen’s cell phone use? We can’t and shouldn’t expect ourselves to control our teen’s behavior on their cell phone. What we can do is set up realistic rules and guidelines for our teenagers to follow, check that they are adhering to these rules, and follow through with any consequences if they are not. Our teens will need to learn how to behave on a cell phone they same way they learn to do anything else: by following the rules or dealing with the consequences.

Teens and Cell Phone Use Rules: Parents Will Have Access to Your Cell Phone

Just because the phone may be in your teen’s name or they may be paying the bill on it, does not mean that they can password protect it against you. They are still teenagers, you are still responsible for their actions. While we need to respect their need for privacy, we are charged with keeping our kids safe.

As their parents, you should have their phone number and their passwords should you ever need to use them in an emergency. Otherwise, when you want to check your teenager’s cell phone, have them show you and allow them to enter in the password. Try not to make this a power struggle, but it is necessary.

Teens and Cell Phone Use Rules: Cell Phones Are Charged Overnight in a Common Area

As your teen should not be on their cell phone when it is time to go to sleep, make a rule to keep the cell phones in a common area to charge after a certain time of night. To make this easier so your teen doesn’t feel singled out, make it a house rule where all phones are charged at the coffee table in the family room every night. There are health-related reasons why this is a good idea as cell phone calls or texts can disturb a teenager’s sleep.

Teens and Cell Phone Use Rules: Follow All School and Community Policies

Your teenager’s high school is going to have rules about using cell phones during school hours. Find out what the rules are by calling your child’s school and talking with their guidance councilor. Expect that your teenager will follow these rules and allow your teenager to face the consequences if the school should need to employ them.

Community areas – when your teen is out in public – may have ‘rules’ to follow as well. For instance, when you are in a hospital, cell phones should be turned off. Teenagers don’t always understand the importance of these rules, so you may have to help them by asking them to follow them or employing a consequence.

Teens and Cell Phone Use Rules: No Risque Selfies or Other Demeaning Photos

Yeah this is a given, right? Not always and may have to be defined for your teenager. I don’t allow posting of pictures that have tongue-out funkiness or low tank tops, let alone any nudity. Some of this may not bother other parents, it bothers me. So I have made it very clear to my teenagers and have more than once requested photos be taken off their social network pages.

This is a good time to have a talk about character and who your teen wants to be in the future. Explain to your teen that every photo they take with their phone and send off to someone else has the potential to be around forever, for everyone to see including the college adviser or boss they will have. They need to think about each one of those pictures before they hit send.

And to take this one step further, they will want to pay attention to what they do with their groups of friends. More than one teen in this day and age has been caught in a photo doing something they wish they hadn’t done because a ‘friend’ had their phone out and took a picture at that moment. Use these thoughts to role-play and ask your teen how they would handle those types of situations. How do they think they could avoid them? Good conversations like these may not always keep your teen from doing the right thing, but they are more apt to take a moment to think it through.

Teens and Cell Phone Use Rules: Cell Phones Are Turned Off During Family Time

All family time events do not need to be interrupted by a cell phone call. These events include, but are not limited to breakfast, lunch and dinner, family game nights, and during needed conversations. It is also important to put this rule in place for extended family events and visits. you need to ask your teen to turn off their cell phone, remind them that you love them and you enjoy their company. While they will roll their eyes, they usually comply to this request.

Teens and Cell Phone Use Rules: Cell Phone Use and Driving

There is no good reason for your teen to have your cell phone on while they are driving a car, even if it is a speaker phone. Talking or texting on a phone distracts you from the task at hand, which is driving the car. This causes accidents. Therefore, the rule for cell phone use in the car is ‘turn it off’. Therefore, your teen will not be tempted to answer it until they turn it back on after the car is off.

Teens and Cell Phone Use Rules: Neither a Borrower or Lender Be

While allowing a friend to use your cell phone right in front of you for an emergency is okay, letting a friend take it to use is not. Again, cell phones have the potential to get your teenager into trouble. While your teen may not accept photos of naked teen girls or send them, their friends might. So setting up this rule will help avoid any of those types of problems.

Another guideline that is along the same lines, your teen shouldn’t share their phone’s password with anyone and they should always have it password protected if they put it down. Teens like to ‘hack’ each others accounts and will say rude things (or worse) posing as your teen. It can be funny, but it can be detrimental as well.

Sharing with Our Parenting Community

Employing these cell phone use rules with your teen will help you discipline their actions when it comes to their cell phone use. Please share any other teen cell phone use rules, advice, and experiences in the comments.