Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


Nope, that’s not really news. But evidently it has become news because a mom recently posted an 18 point contract that she gave her 13 year-old son when he got an iphone for Christmas.

Here it is, assuming the website is back up.  I assume it’s gotten a lot of hits and crashed as near as I can figure.

But for what it’s worth, I agree with some of her statements and not all of her methodologies, but to each their own.  Here’s my thoughts on your teen and cell phones based on my own experience and our own family standards.

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.  If you don’t want your teen texting on their cell as they drive one day, don’t do it either.  If you expect them to ignore their cell phone at the dinner table, then ignore yours.  If you don’t want them texting all through a church service, then don’t do it either.  If you don’t want them glued to it like a game console, then don’t use yours to hide from the world either.  I’m not telling you I’ve mastered this, I’m just saying that if I don’t want my kid to do it, I shouldn’t either.  Much more is caught than taught with a generation that grew up around cell phones.  Model what you expect.

EAR BUDS ARE NOT A LIFE ACCESSORY.  Hoodies, helmets, even sunglasses now can be bought with earbuds in them. In our family, ear buds or head phones on phones, computers, and iPods are used on long car rides, when listening to music on your own, or when the circumstance makes it appropriate.   They are not a life accessory.

CELL PHONES AND CHARGERS ARE LEFT IN THE KITCHEN AT NIGHT.  We buy our kids alarm clocks to use for wake up calls.  Cell phones are not ways for your friends to get ahold of you 24-7.  So each night they go on the kitchen counter and can be recharged overnight there.

PHONES ARE GIVEN ON AN AS NEEDED BASIS:  We give phones when it becomes needed. So far, for us it’s been sometime in middle school.

I PAY FOR CELL, YOU PAY FOR DATA PACKAGES OR APPS.  Neither of my two teens who have a cell phone have a data packages or apps on their phone because quite simply, it costs too much.  I pay a monthly fee for their phone and they share a family unlimited texting package we have.   Until they can pay for the internet and such, their phones are for contacting and texting only and can’t receive a multi-media message of any kind yet.

TYPE IT OR SAY IT, IT’S ALL THE SAME.  As a youth pastor, I no longer can simply talk to students about James 3 and the power of the tongue.  Now I have to talk to them about the power of their thumbs.  Truthfully, some type or text more than they verbally say to their friends… especially outside of school.  But those words are no less powerful or dangerous than the ones they speak with their tongue.  Consequently, teaching about the dangers of reading texts without vocal tones, misreading language when no body language is present, and hiding behind a screen to say that which you would never say face-to-face are a few of the things I have to teen my own teens as well as the ones I minister with at church.

PRIVACY IS A PRIVILEGE.  I don’t search my kids phones as a habit, but if I have a concern, I won’t hesitate.  My kids know that the phone is a privilege that can be taken away if abused or misused, not an irrevocable right.  Open conversations and trust are critical as teens get older and privileges increase.

BUY THE INSURANCE.  While I don’t tell my kids to avoid them being careless, I do buy the phone insurance on teen phones because I expect accidents to happen.  When they do, most plans will replace the cell for a long list of ills.  (Best Buy has one that is crazy)  If they lose the cell, which has happened in our family, my kids are responsible for the replacement cost.

Oh… and no, we have not given them a contract or formal letter yet. 🙂


  1. I really like your points. I almost ran a tech and parenting seminar to teach parents the basics of tech but the truth is they’re always going to be behind. I’ve had students post on their FB how to hack their school’s boot script to bypass their proxies.

    Your blog entry helps with “the bigger picture.”

    With open communication based on trust, parents can communicate that that they are not going to screen phones until the need be and then the trust will be in jeopardy. We’ve had teen girls sext and post inappropriate photos on FB and the issue is you just can’t screen everything. It’s better to base the relationship on trust.

    I still believe that parents really do need to know how to change their default password on their router (helps against hacking), know the option to screen all and any texts (using installed apps), or monitor internet wifi traffic is available but it’s not the ultimate safeguard for teenagers – communication is.

  2. thanks Eric. there are lots of ways to monitor and filter stuff, I do think they are valuable. But it’s like the cop in the rearview mirror making you drive wisely. At some point, driving responsibly has to be owned by the driver without the cop. Same is true for wise use of cell phones, so at some point, parents need to rely on something other than filters and such to do the job of parenting. They’re good for accountability, just lousy for communication.

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