Cell Phone Rules: Getting to Know Your Child's "Contacts"

In your book you say parents of preteen children, as is our case, should know their friends and parents. We agree fully. We have decided that we would like to limit our 12 year old daughter's cell phone contacts to friends we know/parents we know. This would require us to remove most of her contacts from her ALLOW list. Is this an appropriate approach as my concern is not to put her in a corner where she will go to extremes to escape this restriction?

 Terrance, Minnesota


You have asked an important 21st century parenting question. The technology that young children carry in their pockets today would have astounded parents just fifteen or twenty years ago. With these technologies come great benefits - but also new challenges. 


Communication is the key. It is important to have regular, ongoing conversations with your daughter about how she is using her cell phone. You should be clear that the cell phone is yours since you are paying the bills. She has the privilege of using it so long as she does it responsibly. That said, I don’t think it is necessarily a good idea to remove all the contacts that you do not know personally. If your daughter has demonstrated responsible use of her phone so far, this action might come across as heavy handed and potentially set up the type of cat and mouse game you are legitimately concerned about.

Discussing ground rules

An alternative strategy would be to ask her to tell you about her contacts. Who are they? Where did she meet them? Why did she decide to put them in her phone? This will give you an idea of how she is using her cell phone and how open she is to ongoing communication. This would also be the time to talk to her about your family’s cell phone ground rules about when, where, how much, etc. Let her know that it is your job to pay attention to how she uses the phone. Make sure she understands that as long as she’s using it appropriately there won’t be any problems. But if her use strays from the ground rules, then she will lose the privilege for a period of time. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Set clear ground rules about when, where, and how much your daughter can use her cell phone. Include text messages limits and Internet use in your rules.
  2. Let your daughter know that you have a zero tolerance policy for any cyber-bullying.
  3. Support the school’s cell phone rules.
  4. Consistently enforce the rules. If compliance starts to slip restrict access for a period of time.
  5. Continue to be in touch with the parents of friends she hangs out with. Ask for their phone numbers.  Don’t just rely on your daughter calling you from her cell phone.
Here are other cell phone rules and tips on setting parental controls that might be helpful to set everyone in the family up for success! 
Dr. Dave