Tips For Getting Your Tween A Cell Phone

Denise is the Program Manager at the Family Online Safety Institute. Reposted from

Tween_CellphoneRemember when a cell phone was a luxury? Not any more. It seems as if everyone has a cell phone. So is it any wonder your kids want one? We know your kids are ready to get their hands on a phone. But are you ready?

Use these 5 tips to get prepared for your next adventure in parenting.

  1. Research the best cellular plans. Many cellular providers offer family plans and additional phone lines for a discount. You should explore your options and determine which plan is best for you and your needs. Verizon’s FamilyBase plan helps parents manage and control their kids phone usage. AT&T and Sprint offer great family value plans as well. A word of advice however, be sure you have a robust texting plan. Even with smartphones, which kids can use to access all kinds of social networking and communication apps, texting is far and away the number one way kids stay in touch with one another.
  2. Understand parental controls options.  There are several kid-friendly phones on the market that offer varying degrees of parental control and limited features. You may want to give your child a simple cell phone to start rather than an Internet-connected smartphone. Either way, find out what features are available to help you manage your child’s usage, privacy, and safety. You may also want to have the phone be GPS enabled so you know where your child is but note that several popular apps may give away your child’s location.  Keep this in mind and learn to adjust the settings accordingly.
  3. Know your child. You need to consider how responsible your child is. If your son/daughter is allowed to go places with friends unsupervised then you might want to give him/her a phone as a way to keep in touch. Then set the rules. For example, you may insist that they will answer when a parent or sibling calls and/or reply to texts from parents promptly. Be clear that this is expected and non-negotiable.
  4. Agree to terms. Discuss limits on texting, App purchases, In-App purchases and time limits. Many schools require students to turn off their cell phones during the school day so make sure your child follows school rules as well. At home, agree to a turn off time in the evening. And remind your child to put the phone away during face-to-face conversations and family meal times. Use our Smartphone Safety Contract as a way to get the conversation started.
  5. Monitor or Mentor? Once you’ve determined that your child is responsible enough to have a phone, guide them on how to use it responsibly and then trust them to do so. You may be tempted to spy on your child, but that could end up backfiring. You need to have some boundaries and mutual respect. Think about it this way, you do not have access to every conversation your child has at school, so don’t be tempted by technological abilities to spy when it is not necessary. Tell your child that you will be checking in periodically to make sure that they are using their phone responsibly. But be upfront about it, you don’t want to violate your child’s trust.
    Getting your child a phone is a big step for both of you. Talk to them about your expectations for proper use of the phone. Then let them prove to you how responsible they can be. They will appreciate your confidence in them, and may just surprise you in the process.

Denise Lisi DeRosa is Program Manager for the Family Online Safety Institute. She is dedicated to empowering families with the tools needed to embrace the current social and digital technologies in meaningful, creative and positive ways. Denise is committed to further develop and promote FOSI’s Platform for Good as a valuable resource for parents.


About National PTA’s #ShareAwesome campaign: National PTA has partnered with LifeLock to share awesome ways families can create an open, evolving conversation about positive, safe decisions when using digital tools. Learn more about #ShareAwesome, the #ShareAwesome contest, and digital safety at

October is Connected Educators Month, which offers highly distributed, diverse, and engaging activities to educators at all levels. The goals of CEM include: getting more educators proficient with social media to improve their practice; deepening and sustaining learning among those already enjoying connection’s benefits; helping schools credential/integrate connected learning into their formal professional development efforts; stimulating and supporting innovation in the field.


  1. I love your advice to explore different cellular plans. Often, we need to make a decision based on our child’s needs. Those differ from child to child. Do you have any other tips about finding a good cell phone plan for your child? For example, are there particular brands that work better for certain age groups?

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