After a year of begging, our son received a cell phone for Christmas, and he was ecstatic! It was a hand-me-down phone with a few minor scratches from his uncle, but he did not care. It was freedom. Freedom to talk to others when not on Wi-Fi, freedom to watch Minecraft videos when traveling in the car, and freedom to catch Pokémon when we are out running errands.
However, with this freedom comes great responsibility. It seems that kids are getting their own mobile devices younger and younger, but are not really understanding how to properly use these devices. I mean, kids know how to turn them on, charge them and change the settings (probably better than many adults), but do they really understand how to handle the risks involved with using this mobile device and that this is a privilege?
This is why I researched family cell phone contracts and wrote a cell phone contract that was a good fit for our family. Of course, is not a comprehensive list of EVERYTHING that could possibly go wrong when using a cell phone, but it is a great starting place to have a conversation about what we expect from our kids when given a cell phone.
For our contract, I felt that there were really three main topics to cover: Who actually owns this phone, how to properly use the phone, and how to be a good digital citizen.
Who Owns the Phone
This is where we told our son, loud and clear, that he did not own this phone. This phone was given to him to use, but we, the parents, are the actual owners of the phone. Since he does not own the phone, we expect to have the password to his phone just as a rental company would have a key to all their properties no matter who is living in them.
Additionally, we wanted our son to know that he was responsible for any damage to the phone. We didn’t want him to just assume that we would immediately replace his phone if he dropped it in the toilet. Nope, not going to happen. Our daughter dropped two iPods – one was hers and one was her brother’s. We did not replace either one for her. It was a tough but, necessary, lesson.
How to Properly Use the Phone
This section is basically about calling, texting, posting, pictures and so on. We wanted our son to know that basic phone etiquette is expected, when the phone should be turned off (or silent) and what hours are not acceptable to call other people. We also wanted him to be aware of the not so obvious (but still risky) issues like don’t take selfies in crazy locations and don’t keep your head buried in your phone so much that you have no idea what is going on around you.
This section to give our son a “heads up” that we can (and will) periodically check his phone. We are not trying to be nosy. We are checking-in to confirm that he is building good digital character.
How to Be a Good Digital Citizen
This is a big topic. Too big, in fact, for a one page cell phone contract. I believe that each of the terms we listed in this section should include many family discussions and examples. However, since using a cell phone is beginning of our son’s online footprint, we wanted to lay down some ground rules and start the discussions. We included rules about being nice to others, not revealing personal information and staying away from inappropriate material. In this digital age, these are all life skills that our kids need to master as they become adults. I expect that we will need to revisit these over and over and over again as situations with friends and classmates come up.
Handling Mistakes with Grace
At the end of the contract, we stated that our son would lose his phone if he either doesn’t follow these rules, or if he gets in trouble at school or at home. We also told him that after his punishment we would start over, with grace. I felt that this was very important for him to understand. We know he will make mistakes; we all do. When we make a mistake, we learn from it and move forward; hopefully, with more wisdom.
Download our FREE Cell Phone Contract here.
I would love to hear what you have included in your cell phone contract in the comments below!
If you found this post helpful, you may also like…