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Top Cell Phone Rules for Teens Heading Back to School

Top Cell Phone Rules for Teens Heading Back to School

As your kid blossoms into a teenager, they may ask for (or demand) more liberties, including a later curfew, car privileges, and a cell phone!

While a cell phone can give your teen a lifeline to you, emergency services, and friends, it can also be a gateway that leads to distractions from schoolwork, security concerns, exposure to inappropriate content, and even social media cyberbullying. Help your soon-to-be adult strike a healthy balance this back-to-school season with these eight cell phone rules for teenagers.

Basic Cell Phone Rules for Teenagers

1. No cell phones past bedtime.

A survey from Common Sense Media revealed that almost 47% of parents worry that their kids are addicted to mobile devices. Help stave off phone addiction by setting rules that prioritize sleep over texting habits!

Have your teenager dock their phone in your room or in the kitchen at the same time every evening. It’ll help them sleep better and prevent them from engaging in regrettable or addictive digital activity into the wee hours of the night.

2. No phones at the dinner table or during family time.

We know. Teens and cell phones go together like macaroni and cheese — once they’re together, they’re almost impossible to separate. At meal time, though, try cutting out the phone and keeping the mac. Cell phones interrupt conversations and take away from bonding opportunities.

But this cell phone rule isn’t just for teens! If you’re on-call for your job or need to answer texts urgently in the middle of a meal, excuse yourself from the table to take care of things. Then, make your way back to the table and resume eating, distraction-free. Digital savviness and table manners? Way to tackle two lessons at once. Talk about pro parenting.

3. Parental supervision is not optional.

You giveth the phone, and you can taketh the phone away, too! Tell your teen that phones under your roof (or on your data plan) are subject to inspection. Remind them that they shouldn’t do or say anything on their phone that they wouldn’t want you to find out about because there’s a chance you might!

By being transparent about your ability to monitor their phone use, you can prevent the unpleasantness of being accused of invading your kid’s privacy. Need help monitoring your kid’s phone use? These handy apps can help do everything from curb data use to monitor browsing history.


Available for: Android and iOS devices
Price: Free

KnowBullying is an app for parents. It helps keep you up-to-date with the latest digital threats including predatory tactics and cyberbullying. Plus, it offers resources and methods for parents to start a conversation with their children.


Available for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Kindle devices
Price: Limited free functionality, paid version starts at $4.99/month

Qustodio helps parents keep an eye out for digital addiction. It tracks device usage across phones, tablets, and laptops. Qustodio tells you which apps kids favor and how much screen time they get per day. It also allows you to set daily time limits on certain phone functions, and create filters for inappropriate content on the internet.


Available for Android and iOS devices
Price: Free

ReThink is a student-created app that prevents online hate before it goes live. It detects hateful text messages as they are typed. Then, it gives texters an alert about the message they’re going to send, giving them the option to not submit the hateful content! ReThink gives potential cyberbullies a chance to change course before they post online.


Available for Android and iOS devices
Price: Starts at $29.99/month

Spyzie puts your kid’s phone usage at your fingertips, allowing you to turn apps on and off with a tap. For example, when they are at school or doing homework, you can turn everything off with the exception of academic resources. Plus, Spyzie allows you to track a device’s GPS location, monitor text and call logs, and even browse photo carousels.

4. Be smart online.

Most kids are familiar with best practices for online safety by the time they are teens. For example, they know not to give out personal information to people they meet online. However, some smartphone-specific rules are worth reviewing with your teen when they get a new phone.

Don’t take or share embarrassing pictures of yourself or others.

Unlike Vegas, what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet — with the potential of affecting career eligibility and family life further down the line. According to CareerBuilder, 7 out of 10 employers check candidates’ social media before hiring them, which means an inappropriate post or picture can mean sacrificing a future job opportunity.

Tweet others like you want to be tweeted.

Cyberbullying is a problem. According to Cyberbullying.org, 33.8% of kids 12-18 years old have been victims of this type of online harassment. Remind teens that, in many states, cyberbullying is punishable by law and will therefore be grounds for punishment in your house. Warn them to steer clear of sharing threatening messages, spreading rumors online, creating fake social profiles, and generally doing anything hurtful — on or offline. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.

Remind teens that social networks are not reflections of real life. Comparing themselves to their friends’ social feeds can cause low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health problems.

5. Respect data usage limits.

If you’re putting your teen on the family’s data plan, make sure they are not consuming more data than what’s fair. Most phone carriers will let you set data limits by line, giving you control over how much streaming and navigating your children can do when not plugged into WiFi. By doing this, you won’t only ensure data is distributed fairly, but you’ll also force your teen to evaluate which interactions are worth their precious data and which aren’t.

6. Understand the cost of smartphones.

Sure, a rent-to-own phone from Rent-A-Center can be an affordable way to outfit your teen with new tech at low prices. However, phones aren’t cheap! If you want your teen to use their phone responsibly, help them understand the value (and price) of a cell phone.

When weighing phone options with your teen, ask them how much they’d be willing to pay for a phone. Then, go over pricing for different models, from the modern Samsung Galaxy S10 to a simpler but powerful smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy A7.

Once they understand the price of the phone you select for them, show them a phone bill and explain the monthly costs associated with this privilege. Grasping the financial implications of cell phone ownership can help kids “get” why getting a cellphone is such a big deal — one that they need to take seriously.

7. Discipline and reward.

Even the best phone rules for teens won’t make kids (or parents) perfect people! Slip-ups are bound to happen, and when they do, you must draw the line. Discipline rule breakers by grounding them, taking their phone away, or reducing their data allowance.

On the flip side, recognize responsible phone use with rewards like other freedoms, sweet treats, and even a phone upgrade!

Remember, the power to give and take a phone away gives you significant leverage as a parent. For example, if you notice your teen isn’t paying attention to schoolwork (even when they’re stationed at a clutter-free workspace), you can temporarily take their phone away to help them focus. If their grades take a hit after they get a phone, you can take the phone away until their grades bounce back!

8. Practice what you preach.

If you choose to apply all or any of these rules in your house, start out by setting an example with your own behavior. At the end of the day, you are your kid’s ultimate role model.

How to Set up Phone Rules With Teens

The best time to talk to your teen about cell phone rules is before they get a new phone. Many parents recommend writing up a physical contract, including the rules teens need to follow and what they can expect to happen if they break the contract.

The writers at Verywell also suggest including what will happen if your kid breaks or loses the phone. Review the contract with your phone-toting teen and have them sign it. Then, cover all your bases by giving them a copy to keep! Having a physical contract will go a long way, even if your kids already have a phone.

Think your teen is ready for the responsibility (and rules) of having a phone? Shop new phones for teens at Rent-A-Center, the place to go for great payments, flexibility, and freedom. Compare phones online and visit your nearest Rent-A-Center today!

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