Years of parenting has led to one inevitable event: the day your teenager asks for a cell phone. While this may not be a surprise, you and your ex must decide together whether getting your teen a phone protects their best interests. If one of you buys a phone without the other’s consent, it may create serious discord between you and your former partner.
There are a number of steps that you should take to decide with your ex about whether you should or shouldn’t get your teen a cell phone. Talking with your ex about the positives and negatives that a cell phone may bring is the first step you must take.
Have “the Talk” Without Your Teen
Set up a time where both you and your ex are free to sit down and talk about getting your teenager a cell phone. Stay calm and civil with your ex, even if they say things that offend you. If you get angry, you and your ex will fail to come to an amicable decision about whether you will get your child a cell phone or not.
You should create a pros and cons list to help determine if your teen is responsible enough to have a cell phone. The following questions are good thoughts to keep in mind as you make your list:
- Does our teen set an example for the rest of our children?
- Does he or she finish homework and chores on time?
- What kind of decisions has our child made when they have stood face-to-face with peer pressure and other troublesome situations?
- How does our teen handle other electronics?
- Will a cell phone interfere with our teen’s schoolwork, afterschool activities, and work around the house?
- How can we teach our child about the danger of cyberbullying?
- Will a phone be beneficial for both our teen’s school/work schedule and our schedules?
- Would a cell phone be beneficial for our teen to have for a volunteer trip this summer?
- Will a cell phone tempt our child to cheat on tests or “sext” with school classmates?
Additionally, you and your ex should research teen cell phone statistics separately and combine what you found to make an informed decision for your teen. An example of a statistic that is particularly noteworthy is that 70% of teens have smartphones. Therefore, these teens have access to the internet and pornography.
Many teens also tend to be on their phones every minute of the day, which includes when they are in school, in the bathroom, or doing their homework. Providing cell phone-use guidelines in your home is one way to circumvent the likely possibility that your teen may become addicted to their cell phone.
Saying No to Your Teen
You and your ex may decide your teen is not responsible enough to handle a cell phone. In order to break the news to your child successfully, you and your ex should sit down with your teen to explain why this is the case. Be prepared for your child to be upset, but you and your ex have to hold your ground.
A compromise between you, your ex, and your child may be the best way to avoid a temper tantrum for when you break the news to your teen. Give your teen a period of time to prove that they are responsible enough to have a cell phone. Doing well in school, completing more chores on time, and holding down a job are all examples of ways your teen can show that they are responsible enough to have a cell phone. If your teen ends up getting a job after school, emphasize that their job can’t cause their grades to slip.
Saying Yes to Your Teen
Should you and your ex decide that your teen is responsible enough to have a cell phone, there are a few ground rules you should implement. Here are a few ground rules you and your ex should consider establishing:
- Cell phones should be put away during dinner
- No phone use after a certain time of night
- Neglecting schoolwork or chores will cause a phone to be taken away
- Only one social media network is allowed
- No phone use during family time
Make it abundantly clear that if your child begins to slack in school, their cell phone will be taken away. Since your child is getting a cell phone, you and your ex have an opportunity to have an honest conversation about cyberbullying or predatory behavior from anyone that they potentially could meet online. Ask your teen questions about what he or she would do in the event of cyberbullying or similar issues to further cement the right courses of action.
The Importance of Sticking Together
Establishing uniform cell phone ground rules in both your and your ex’s home is vital. Coming up with a different set of rules that apply at your house, but not at your ex’s may set the stage for your teen to take advantage of the ground rules you’ve set forth. You must agree with your ex that both of you should monitor whether your teen’s cell phone has led them to skip extracurricular activities or fail numerous tests.
Keep Your Personal Agenda and Your Children Separate
Co-parenting with your ex is going to have peaks and valleys, especially when it comes to major decisions. All you can do is continually work on your relationship with your ex to benefit your children. As long as you both agree to make decisions for your children rather than for your own separate agendas, you and your children will benefit in the long run.
If your child takes having a phone for granted, you can always take the phone away from your teenager and give it back once they have demonstrated that they can handle the responsibility. Tough love may be necessary to show your child that you and your ex deserve their respect. As long as you or your ex aren’t too hard on your child the end result just might be well worth it: a more competent, responsible, and happy child.
About the Author: Richard M. Renkin is a certified Family Law Specialist and assists his clients on matters relating to San Diego child support, child custody, and family law mediation.