How to Set Phone Rules Teens Will Follow

Nobody ever said parenting was easy. And being a parent to tech-savvy teens and connected kids means navigating issues from basic etiquette to online cell phone rules for teens. Here are some tips to help make your kids responsible smartphone users.

Lead By Example

If you want your kids to learn healthy smartphone behaviors, practice what you preach. Be mindful of how often you’re on your phone when you’re with them, and be sure to put it away during meals and family time. By setting aside time where the whole family is together free of distraction, you’ll build strong relationships and create an environment of trust. Strike a positive tone for the conversation by bringing it up without criticism. A defensive kid won’t be as receptive.

Discuss Limits Together

Kids love their phones, but even they recognize you can have too much of a good thing; nine out of 10 teens ages 13-17 say spending too much time online is a problem for their age group.1 Consider setting rules and consequences together. They’ll feel more invested in obeying because they feel heard and trusted, and it will allow you to explain why the rules matter so much. Be sure to set a positive tone for the conversation by refraining from criticism in the moment. A defensive kid is not inclined to listen.

Make Them Fair & Reasonable

They’d never admit it, but having a set of rules makes kids and teens feel safer. Knowing that someone cares enough to set boundaries for them is enormously comforting – as long as the boundaries are fair. Set reasonable rules, like not using cell phones in class or while doing homework, and enforce them strictly. Encourage teens to keep location-sharing on for you when they’re out with friends. On Apple devices, enable Screen Time to cut them off once they’ve reached your agreed-upon time limit of watching YouTube videos or using social media.

Where Necessary, Set Parental Controls

Fostering trust is the most important thing when discussing devices with your children, but if you still want to keep a closer eye, you can always set parental controls. Apps like Qustodio allow you to monitor your child’s online activity, texts, calls and more, for peace of mind in protecting them from cyber threats.

Pay Attention

Stay aware of your child’s behaviors, attitude and demeanor. Watch for any drastic changes, and work to create strong lines of healthy, trusting communication.

Be Patient

When your kid slips up and breaks the rules, don’t freak out. Remind them of the consequences you agreed on together, then enforce those consequences firmly. And don’t be upset if they call you out too. They’ll model their cell phone behaviors on yours, so stick to the same rules, or face the consequences yourself.

Read more about setting cell phone rules for kids and teens, and additional ways to help your kids use their technology safely from U.S. Cellular®.



  1. Jiang, Jingjing. “How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 30 Nov. 2018,