Children and Phone Use

If your child has a phone, they need to be responsible for how they use it. It is also important to have rules to guide them in their daily phone usage.

Responsible mobile phone use

If you’re thinking about a mobile phone for your child or your child already has one, it’s important to think about helping your child use the phone responsibly.

Responsible mobile phone use is about:

  • developing healthy phone habits.
  • sticking to rules about phone use.
  • managing costs by keeping track of calls, texts, and data usage.
  • keeping the phone charged and safe and not losing or damaging it.
  • being safe and respectful in calls, texts, and social media posts.

Healthy responsible mobile phone habits

The best way to help your child with healthy responsible mobile phone use is by being a role model. It starts with thinking about your own technology use. For example, if you want your child to spend time talking with you when they get home from school, you could make a point of switching off your phone when you get home from work. This sets a great example for your child.

Mother communicating over cell phone while reading an e-mail on laptop at home.

It is also a good idea to talk with your child about having phone-free time regularly. Some families like to have phone-free afternoons or days for the whole family. Others try to take a no-internet holiday now and then – for example, a trip to Mombasa for Easter or Christmas holidays.

Rules for mobile phone use

Discussing and agreeing on mobile phone rules with your child is a good idea. These might be rules about what your child can use their phone for, where and when they can use it, and how much they can spend on usage.

Some examples of mobile phone rules for your child:

  • What: your child can use their phone to contact friends and listen to music. Your child can’t use the phone to watch movies online. Depending on your child’s age, they must ask you before downloading new apps.
  • Where: your child can’t make calls or send text messages when they’re in class, but they can call and text when they’re on the bus after school.
  • When: your child can use their phone during the day and early evening, but not between 9 pm and 7 am.
  • How much: your child can use the plan’s monthly allowance, but there won’t be any extra payments if they run out of minutes or data.

Ideas of mobile phone rules for the whole family:

  • Mobile phones are either switched off or not used during family meals.
  • Mobile phones come out of bedrooms at an agreed time.
  • Mobile phones and other devices are charged in a family area overnight.
  • Mobile phones are put down when you’re talking face-to-face with each other.

You might find it helpful to create an agreement that both you and your child sign. You could make it part of a family media plan covering all types of digital technology and media use. If you choose to have a formal agreement, it’s a good idea to revise it together regularly to make sure it still meets your needs and your child’s needs as they get older.

You might also want to talk about and agree on the consequences if your family’s mobile phone rules are broken – by your child, or by you.

You can guide your child towards positive mobile phone use. For example, you could encourage your child to take a photo of one nice thing that happens each day to share with you that evening or use an app on their phone to learn a language.

Managing mobile phone costs

When your child first gets a mobile phone, you’ll probably need to help them learn how to manage costs, so they don’t misuse or overuse their airtime/data. These tips can help:

  • Show your child how to check how much airtime and data bundle is left.
  • Help your child switch off unnecessary settings that use up data, like automatic downloads.
  • Explain that your child should use Wi-Fi to download content like videos. This can help them avoid going over the data limit.
  • Make a rule that your child shouldn’t let others use their phone.

Keeping the mobile phone safe and charged

Responsible mobile phone use involves keeping the phone safe and undamaged.

You’ll need to talk with your child about how to keep a mobile phone safe, for example, your child might need a phone cover and a screen protector.

A phone finder feature can be helpful in case your child loses the phone.

It is also a good idea to agree with your child on how you’ll deal with replacing a lost or damaged mobile phone, for example, will you or your child pay for a new phone?

If your child is younger or a little bit forgetful, you might need to remind them that it is their responsibility to keep the mobile phone charged.

Most schools have rules about mobile phones at school. Many schools require phones to be switched off so they can’t be used during class or in the playground. If your child carries their phone to school, it is important for your child to stick to the school’s rules about mobile phone use.

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