Last year, my oldest son graduated from elementary school (6th grade) and turned 12 in the same week. Big changes were on the horizon, one of which included the move to junior high. This move, to a school closer to home, meant that Jake would be walking to and from school daily. We also knew that this change would mean more after school activities, last minute schedule changes and new friends so we decided to get him a cell phone.
I knew as soon as we made the decision to get him the phone that along with it we would present him with some sort of agreement on its use and the responsibility that came with it. This was a big step for us as parents and we wanted him to know that we were giving him our trust but also had high expectations. I wanted the agreement to not only spell out the logistics of his cell phone (ie. its primary use for communication) but also his limitations (no social media accounts until 13 years old!) and just as important, cell phone etiquette. I searched online and ended up merging parts from three or four different documents I found. The end result was this one page document that covers a broad range of the expectations and responsibilities Jake got along with his new phone. CELL PHONE CONTRACT
This is a fluid document which changes as needs dictate. For instance, originally, there was a line that said he was not allowed to password lock his phone, thus allowing us access if we choose to look through it. We altered this when, at a gathering, my son’s phone was picked up by another boy who started texting people as Jake (Thank goodness what was sent was harmless, as it could have been a worse scenario). We realized it was not fair to him to have that vulnerability so we agreed to let him lock it as long as we know the password. We changed the contract accordingly. Jake has had his phone for just about a year and there has only been one instance of his use being restricted(the phone came out of his pocket on a school field trip, a no-no!). We find he comes to us if he has a question or is concerned about something (a question about an app or a call from a number he doesn’t recognize), is very responsible (no broken phones yet!) and extremely polite with its use (he reminds us to silence ours in restaurants). The conversation about technology is ongoing in our family but I do believe that the contract was a big help by clearly presenting our expectations.
If you are looking for a contract to share with your child feel free to use ours . You may want to create your own, if so my advice to you would be:
- Start early. Compose your document before you hand over the phone.
- Do some online research. Search of other documents out there and pull the parts that appeal to you. Ask friends what works with their children. Talk to the parents of your child’s friends and see what their restrictions are. If their whole group has the same set of rules they are more likely to follow them
- Personalize it. Alter sections to address your specific circumstances and family expectations. Look up the school’s phone policy and incorporate it into the document.
- Introduce the contract with the phone. We allowed Jake a day to bask in the glory of his shiny new phone. The next night we sat down for the “serious stuff”. This allowed him to be attentive and understand what we were presenting to him but, allowed us to set the standards from the start.
- Be flexible and open enough to alter the agreement if something isn’t working. Listen to your child and allow them input if they feel a restriction isn’t working or ask for an alteration. Work together to come up with an acceptable solution.
- Most of all, Keep communicating! Have an open dialogue about cell phone use and expectations. Make it clear that your child can come to you with questions or issues.