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How to encourage responsible cell phone use

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

Abuse it, you lose it

Kids are getting their own cell phones at younger ages than ever. When you give your children their first cell phone, you are giving them a whole lot of power – the power to send and receive messages and images, to share their status and location and the ability to download just about anything out there. At such a young age, they may not be ready for all that power. So how do you avoid the potential pitfalls? Here are five important tips to help ensure your kids’ responsible cell phone use.

Middle school girl on cell phone

1Establish rules

When you decide to give your children their own cell phone, make sure you set the ground rules about how their phone is to be used. Develop a list of who your kids can call or text. Let them know if they are allowed to use the phone to access the Internet. Warn your children about lending their phone to friends. If the phone is out of their possession, there's no controlling what messages may be sent on your child's behalf.

2Discuss the consequences

Share articles and news stories about other kids whose lives are impacted by cyber-bullying, sexting or texting while driving. Sometimes seeing the results of others' irresponsible cell phone use is the best way to show your children the potentially disastrous effects of cell phone misuse.

Learn how to spot the warning signs of sexting >>

3Control and monitor

Most cell phone companies offer parental controls that allow parents to set usage controls and content filters. Let your children know you will be monitoring their cell phone use and periodically checking their sent box to ensure their responsible cell phone use. Remember, you're the parent. It's your responsibility to keep your children safe.

Learn how to monitor your child's online activities >>

4Have child pay the bill

One way to help ensure your kids' responsible cell phone use is to have them pay their own cell phone bill. While your children may not be old enough to get a part-time job, give them opportunities to earn money at home by helping with additional chores. Remember -- even if your children pay their own cell phone bills, you still have the right to monitor their cell phone activity.

Read more about balancing teen independence and responsibility >>

5Take it away

As much as you may want your child to carry a mobile phone so you can get in touch with them, taking it away for misuse is probably the most effective way to ensure responsible behavior. Don't be afraid to take your child's cell phone away as a disciplinary method if they are not using the phone as they should.

More on kids and cell phones

5 Reasons why your kids should have cell phones
Cell phone options for kids
Should kids have cell phones?

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