5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Off Their Cell Phones

By: Stefani Newman

This pic would be a lot cuter if we didn't know these kids spend almost every waking minute on their phones.
This pic would be a lot cuter if we didn't know these kids spend almost every waking minute on their phones.
Anne Ackermann/Photodisc/Getty Images

The average American teenager sends or receives more than 3,300 texts per month. Think about that for a minute. That's more than six texts per waking hour, or more than one every 10 minutes. It's not surprising then, that dealing with kids and cell phones can be exceptionally taxing for parents. Between frequent phone calls, extreme amounts of texting, downloading apps and taking and sending photos, cell phones can cost a lot of money and lead to an almost unbelievable amount of wasted time. Scratch that -- it's only unbelievable to those who have yet to see exactly how much time most kids today really do spend on their phones.

So, what to do? You may want to think about introducing reasonable rules to keep your kids -- and phone bills -- in check. It may be a challenge at first, but a set of consistent rules will help your kids see that you mean business, as well as allow your family to eat dinner together without the constant sound whatever annoying ringtone your child has on their phone this week interrupting the conversation.

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Here are five ways to keep your kids off their cell phones (or at least, try to)!

5: Enforce a Phone Time Out

Everyone needs a phone time out, especially during mealtimes, when doing homework or when winding down with the family. Sit down with your child to figure out the best time to put away cell phones. Have a basket handy to store all your electronic devices (yes, this goes for you too, Mom and Dad) without them getting lost or hidden in pockets. This way, your child won't be tempted to use her phone when she should be concentrating on another activity, like the movie you're all enjoying as a family.

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4: Buy Prepaid Minutes

Paying in advance for your kids' phone usage will likely save you money.
Paying in advance for your kids' phone usage will likely save you money.
Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

One surefire way to limit your kids' talk time is to buy them cell phones with prepaid minutes instead of a monthly plan. Prepaid minutes are an efficient and effective way to teach beginning phone users about time limits. Once those minutes are gone, they're gone, and the phone won't work until you pay more money. Of course, you can allow your kids to purchase extra time with the funds they receive from their allowance or from doing extra chores around the house, but -- big surprise here -- most kids figure out how to limit their talk time once the threat of having to use their own money enters the conversation.

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3: Use Kid-Friendly Cell Phone Providers

Many major phone providers -- including Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T -- offer services such as setting texting limits, blocking incoming or outgoing calls to certain phone numbers and shutting and locking the phone at certain times of the day or night. They may also provide GPS, so you can always see where your child is calling from. There is usually an additional fee per month per phone line for these services, but it's worth it to spend some phone-free time with your child. Besides, blocking extra texts and calls will prevent your kid from incurring any costly overage charges once she goes over her minutes or texts.

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2: Keep Them Active

Your kid can't hit a home run if he has a phone in his hand.
Your kid can't hit a home run if he has a phone in his hand.
Comstock/Comstock Images/Getty Images

The best way to get kids off their phones? Limit their downtime. That doesn't mean you need to train for a marathon with them each afternoon, but by keeping kids engaged in an activity, they have no choice but to put their phones down. This can mean asking your children to help you prepare dinner; go for a walk or a bike ride or play a board game together. Really, anything that will keep them engaged and off the phone will work.

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1: Make a Phone Contract

You don't have to wear a suit to do it, but make time periodically to discuss the contract with your child and see how she's handling it.
You don't have to wear a suit to do it, but make time periodically to discuss the contract with your child and see how she's handling it.
George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

The best way to keep your kids informed about what you expect regarding cell phone usage is to put it in writing. A cell phone contract is a smart and effective way to discuss what is and is not appropriate regarding your kids' talk time. You can lay out the rules for when and for how long they can use their phones and who they can speak with. After you've gone over the rules, have your kids sign the contract and keep it in a highly visible place, like on the refrigerator door.

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Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • AT&T. Smart Limits for Wireless. (Feb. 20, 2011) http://www.att.net/smartcontrols-SmartLimitsForWireless
  • Copeland, Larry. "Most teens still distracted when driving." USA Today. Aug. 2, 2010. (Feb. 23, 2012). http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-08-02-teendrivers02_ST_N.htm
  • Distraction.gov. (Feb. 27, 2012) http://www.distraction.gov/index.html
  • Firefly Mobile. (Feb. 20, 2012) http://www.fireflymobile.com/
  • Hafner, Katie. "Texting May Be Taking a Toll." New York Times. May 25, 2009. (Feb. 27, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/health/26teen.html
  • Kajeet. (Feb. 20, 2012) http://www.kajeet.com/4u/index.html
  • Matarese, John. "What is the best cell phone for your child? WCPO.com. Sep. 22, 2010. (Feb. 29, 2012) http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/money/consumer/dont_waste_your_money/cell-phones-for-kids
  • Nielsen Wire. "U.S. Teen Mobile Report: Calling Yesterday, Texting Today, Using Aps Tomorrow." Oct. 14, 2010. (Feb 22, 2012)
  • Olsen, Stefanie. "When to Buy Your Child a Cellphone." New York Times. June 9, 2010. (Feb. 20, 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/technology/personaltech/10basics.html
  • Parr, Ben. "The Average Teenager Sends 3,339 Texts Per Month." Mashable. Oct. 14, 2010. (Feb. 22, 2012) http://mashable.com/2010/10/14/nielsen-texting-stats/
  • Singletary, Michelle. "Cellphones for kids are more gadget than necessity." Washington Post. Nov. 25, 2011. (Feb. 22, 2012) http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/cellphones-for-kids-are-more-gadget-than-necessity/2011/11/21/gIQAIfg1vN_story.html

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