How Can You Control Your Teen's Cell Phone Use?

If you're the parent of a teen, then you're probably familiar with the issue of excessive cell phone use. It's likely that a cell phone dominates your teen's life. If you're concerned about cell phone use growing out of control, there are steps you can take to keep it in check.

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controlling teen cell phone usage

Cell Phone Use Skyrocketing

Teens are becoming increasingly inseparable from their cell phones. According to a 2010 report by the Pew Research Center, approximately 75% of teens between ages 12 and 17 own cell phones. That number grew dramatically from 45% in 2004.

Teens contact their friends using cell phones more than in any other way, including face-to-face talking, emailing and instant messaging. Within the context of cell phone communication, text messaging is even more popular than calling, with 54% of teens texting their friends daily, compared to 38% who call friends. Only 33% of teens talk to their friends face-to-face. Generally, teens become more reliant upon their phones as they get older, with 77% of 17-year-olds texting friends daily, compared to 35% of 12-year-olds.

Controlling Phone Use

There are numerous reasons you may be concerned about your teen's rampant cell phone use. You may be fretting that the phone is dominating your teen's life. The phone could be a distraction from important schoolwork. Many parents wish their teens focused more on live human interaction. Finally, cell phones aren't free. Your teen may be costing you a small fortune in calling minutes, a texting plan and overage fees.

Some parents have their teens sign cell phone use contracts. These contracts can stipulate a variety of things. For example, they may include call minute or texting limits, phone curfew times or rules about proper cell phone behavior. They can also be an agreement from the teen to pay part of each month's cell phone bill. Templates for such contracts are available on the Internet.

Another option is to give your teen a prepaid phone or enroll in a pay-as-you-go plan. For teens who struggle to control their minutes or texts, this can be an ideal option. These phones and plans have strict caps on usage. Rather than face overage fees when the limits are up, the phones simply cease to work until more money is paid.

Monitor Usage

As a parent, one of the most effective steps you can take to remain in control of your teen's cell phone use is to be cognizant of how the phone is being used. Fortunately, the tools for close monitoring of your teen's phone are easy to find. Most major cell phone providers allow you to monitor the overall usage on your plan by line. You can typically check which numbers are called or calling, including when the calls occur and how long they last.

According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of parents claim they monitor their child's phone. This includes not only checking the bill, but also checking the physical phone. You may want to periodically check your teen's phone to see the nature of the text messages being sent or received, as well as the pictures stored on the phone. You can cross-reference the phone against the bill to ensure that inappropriate texts aren't being deleted without your knowledge.

If your teen is like most, then he or she relies upon you to fund his or her cell phone habit. This affords you essential control over how the phone is used. The ultimate consequence of a violation of your agreement with your teen should be a confiscation of the phone, whether it's to protect your teen or your wallet.

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