Youth in Focus

Instilling account-ability through mobile phones

Nov 2014    

If you have concerns about your child’s ability to make wise choices with camera and Internet options, find a phone without these features.

Past generations negotiated with their parents about pocket money, curfews, and dating rules. Today’s parents have to add mobile phones to the list. Though it seems to be standard fare, it is not an absolute teen or child right.

There are concerns when it comes to giving your child a phone. A good approach parents can take in deciding whether to let your child have a mobile phone is to evaluate your teen’s age, maturity level and the sense of responsibility displayed thus far. Do also consider the following boundaries:

Limitations of equipment and plans
If you have concerns about your child’s ability to make wise choices with camera and Internet options, find a phone without these features. And even if the phone is equipped with such capabilities, you can choose a limited data plan and install filters.

The power of the dollar
Perhaps the easiest way to set boundaries with mobile phones is through money. A mobile phone can cost between $70 and $700, and most plans that include a decent number of talk-time ‘minutes’ and text messages can range from $30 to $100 per month. You may opt for a family mobile phone plan in which you have one bill but your child pays for his portion in full or in part.

If you allow your teen to have an individual plan, remember that consequences teach lessons. There have been teens who exceeded their mobile phone limits and discovered they owed the phone company several hundred dollars on their first bill. By requiring a teen to pay for a mobile phone and his use of it, you encourage maturity and instil accountability.

Manners and technology
While dining out, we often see adults as well as children looking down at their smartphones and tech gadgets. Adults and teens alike need to relearn their manners and use them where technology is concerned. Set and enforce family mobile phone rules that reflect consideration, moderation and manners.

A few reasonable rules may include:
• No technology at the dinner table;
• No texting while in the middle of a conversation; and
• No mobile phones when visitors are at the house. This applies to adults in the family as well.

One of the dangers of mobile phones is the lack of accountability. Consider having a rule that all mobile phones have to be turned off and given to parents at the end of the day, and that no mobile phone may be used while driving. Also, establish the understanding that mobile phone bills are not private property. As a parent, you have the right (and responsibility) to know whom your teen is interacting with. Emphasise accountability, not control.

Mobile phones are a communication tool that can make family contact easier, but not without risks. Weigh the pros and cons of a mobile phone before purchasing one for your child, and establish clear boundaries upfront.

Don’t be afraid to enforce these boundaries, for you are teaching lifelong principles of consideration for others, consequences, self-control, financial stewardship and accountability.

Now that sounds like a good use of minutes!

Adapted from Focus on Your Child’s Teen Phases. © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
• Used by permission of Focus on the Family Singapore, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping families thrive.

• For more information, visit


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