Do You Have Your Own Rules for Your Children's Phone Usage?

How closely do you monitor your children's use of technology?

Janelle Hoffman, a Cape Cod, Mass., mother of five, presented her 13-year-old son with an iPhone for Christmas, along with a list of rules and regulations for its use. Not the Apple list; the mom's list.

Rule No. 1 is, "It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren't I the greatest?" And No. 2 is, "I will always know the password."

The contract has 18 points of requirements for usage that range from proper phone etiquette to sage advice for the future, such as No. 12: "Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else's private parts. Don't laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea."

KidsAndMedia.org suggests responsible parents be vigilant with their teens, but monitoring may be a bit overkill. "As parents, we are responsible for our children, and, thus, we have a right as well as a duty to guide them in the digital world. At the same time, children have a right to use digital media, and they have a need to learn about safe and responsible use thereof." They suggest a balance be found, and sometimes that just depends on the child and the age of the child.  

Common sense parenting seems more reasonable than installing the monitoring software and while Hoffman's set of rules seems reasonable to many adults, teens, no doubt, see this as a gross intrusion of their privacy and a lack of trust that, many times, just isn't merited. 

Do you have rules for cell phone use at your house? How closely do you monitor your teen's usage? Do you think Ms. Hoffman's rules are reasonable? At what point should teens be allowed the rights of privacy afforded by a cell phone?

Deanna Allen January 02, 2013 at 02:51 PM
I'm not a parent, but I would like to know where this inherent "right" comes from ... "At the same time, children have a right to use digital media, and they have a need to learn about safe and responsible use thereof." Is KidsAndMedia.org handing out cell phones to children? If I was a parent, my child MIGHT have the privilege of using a cell phone, but certainly not the RIGHT, even if they got a phone from someone else. I WILL STILL BE THE PARENT. I applaud Janelle Hoffman for outlining rules ahead of time.
Gail Lane January 02, 2013 at 02:56 PM
I agree, Deanna. I think she did a phenomenal job of balancing the love and discipline with a bit of humor, even. I have 3 girls who live their lives through their phones and we sometimes have a hard time finding that balance between allowing them privacy and keeping them safe. Always err to the side of safety ,,, and if they get angry, there's always chocolate chip cookies!
Marne M January 02, 2013 at 03:03 PM
I work as a Detective supervisor in a sex crimes unit. I have seen far too many of the troubles that come from failure to institute and follow through on rules such as the ones of Ms. Hoffman. I applaud her rules, and hope that she follows through on them. I especially like the one about handing it over every night, and limiting use at school and in public. These rules should apply to everyone.
Tammy January 02, 2013 at 03:09 PM
I am a parent to SIX kids, and even I find this overkill. We gave our children a cell phone when they turned 13. A simple cellphone, definitely nothing high tech until they showed us that they could be responsible. Yes, we had rules....(no phone calls or texting after a certain time, no taking your phone to school, etc...)...It was their phone, that we bought for THEM. Yes, we did monitor to a certain degree (prank calls, giving out their phone number to certain people, etc...) But, they also had to show us that we could trust them and show responsibility. Sometimes when you put way too many rules on the child or THEIR items, it can have the opposite effect that you are looking for...like sneaking, rebelling, loss of respect and trust with the parent. But, what worked for us, may or will not work for everyone. good luck to this Mother, I am sure she means well...but, IMO she is going overboard.
Ryan Miller January 02, 2013 at 03:52 PM
I will have to agree with this method. I am not a parent either, but I remember the rule I had as a child and I didn't like them all but they helped keep me inline. I do feel that parents should not be afraid to be the boss. I'd get my kids a simple phone at a young age and require they hand it over when they get it and can check it back out when they leave the house. When they get older maybe 15 they can have a smartphone that will have monitoring software installed like Phone Sheriff and they will know it is on there. Just a way of saying you have freedom, but you are being watched. As adults we are being watched. Traffic light cam, Homeland security is tracking IP addresses for terror and if we get out of line, the red and blue light start flashing. So, monitoring their phones are not bad, just good to do at first. I remember the temptation I faced and I don't want my kids making bad choices because the temptation will arise, Parents just need to help their kids make the best choice.
Jerry Posner January 02, 2013 at 04:03 PM
yeah phonesheriff works great, it's an easy way to set AND enforce the rules while guaranteeing the child's safety and keeping logs of everything that goes on
Gail Lane January 02, 2013 at 04:46 PM
A little surprised that you found this overkill, Tammy. Not in a bad way, but still surprised. I found this parent's "rules" to be more about learning to communicate and be part of our world rather than anything Draconian or overkill. I especially liked #17 "Wonder without googling." What did you find that was overboard?
Tammy Osier January 03, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Me too Gail. This is coming from someone who teaches life skills to kids and parenting. I'm always surprised at the kids who seem a little edgy when their parents don't keep their boundaries tight enough (you wouldn't think that of kids who had been in trouble). I was usually a little miffed at the kids who laughed at their parents for being naive enough to think their kids wouldn't be tempted. They weren't meaning to be disrespectful, but it helped me realize that kids respect a parent that gives them boundaries- some stricter than others; depends on the kid and their personality. I've done this for 20 years, working with kids who have been in trouble (at school and with the law), and that's the consensus I get. They WANT stricter rules. They rebel against it outwardly sometimes, but confide it privately. I found when raising my kids, that it wasn't about me or how good a parent I was, it was realizing that anyone can be tempted and my boundaries gave my kids an "out" when they were tempted. In fact, the good kids need it even more. Being overly strict without a good relationship with kids - will that cause rebellion? Most likely, but keeping the adult - child relationship intact - in that order - is the best prescription. Kids respect it (they won't tell you that until they are around 23 however...). :)
Tammy Osier January 03, 2013 at 12:03 AM
I remember something my parents told me once and I never forgot it. THey said, "It's not hat we don't trust you, we just don't trust that big wide world out there that doesn't love you like we do". Today, as I watch my grandaughter get on a coloring pages site, I have to monitor because of pop ups and it "suddenly" scrolling over to an inappropriate site! The internet age should scare anyone who has kids now.
Tammy Osier January 03, 2013 at 01:01 AM
I re-read this...and it made me think of my 17yr. olds truck. It was in MY name, therefore, I reserved the rights to it. He could learn to be independent, how to take care of something, but it he misused the privilege, it reverted back to me. I don't care how old they are. I never assumed that my children knew as much about the world as I did. They don't. They're young. That's why they need guidance. They have to learn that their privacy ends when they can't obey a rule. But there is a balance and you have to work together towards it, but always keep in mind who the adult is, and who the child is. I've seen many a family ruined when they allowed that line to get blurred. Some of my parenting columns are going to be on this very concept. Regarding my son's truck....I was not one of those parents that "parked" his truck and took his keys when he got grounded from it. I "drove" it. He didn't like the way I rode the brakes, so it gave him a little bit of incentive to get his act together, and get those keys back into his hands - lol.


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