How Cell Phones Teach Kids Responsibility

There are layers and layers of opportunities for kids to learn responsibility with a cell phone.  Some are related to property ownership and some are related to following rules.  Other areas of responsibility include planning ahead, staying in touch, time management and money management. 

Having a cell phone will not automatically instill responsibility but it can offer the opportunity to learn responsibility.  Like study skills or managing an allowance, skills for being a responsible cell phone owner and user need to be taught.  Expectations and consequences both need to be clear for new cell phone users and parents should expect to have an ongoing dialogue about cell phone use while kids are learning to be responsible.

Keeping Up with Cell Phones

Parents are often most concerned about kids running up phone charges with minutes and texts but in reality preteens often have trouble finding their shoes, their gym shorts or their homework.   Sometimes the first and most challenging skill for kids is to learn to keep up with their cell phone. 

At home:

Teach children to find a place for their cell to always be in every situation.  At home, there should be a specific plac,e preferably by a charger, where they always put their cell phone when they come home.

On the go:

On the go, they should have a specific pocket in a purse, backpack or car where they always store their phone. 

Keeping Cell Phones Charged


Kids should be taught to keep their chargers in the same place as well.  Kids may also not realize that when they unplug the phone from the charger but leave the charger plugged into the outlet that this still pulls a significant electricity draw known as “phantom pull.”

Kids will have to be taught and unfortunately often learn by trial and error, how often they will need to charge their new phone and how long the charge will last.

Following Cell Phone Rules & Etiquette


Schools in particular will have rules about where cell phones can be stored or used.  Parents will also have to be clear about the rules and make sure their kids are clear too on both the rules and the consequences for breaking them.

Public Places:

Cell phone etiquette in other places like restaurants and churches seems to escape many adults and parents will certainly have to make their cell phone etiquette and no call zones clear to kids with cell phones. Here’s where role modeling and reminders can go a long way towards instilling cell phone responsibility.

Managing Minutes & Texting Fees:

Most parents just aren’t willing to trust first time cell phone users to manage minutes and texting at least at first.  This is when prepaid cell phones come in. 

Lisa Carey from Katy, Texas, is a mother of four from preschool to college, who has bought and managed two cell phones for preteens and teens.

“The first step is really learning to be physically responsible for the cell phone and taking care of it as a technology tool,” says Lisa. 

“Then comes the time and money management.  Not every parent is going to splurge on an unlimited calling and texting plan and probably shouldn’t.  I started both of my oldest on prepaid plans at first before we looked at adding them to our family plan,” Lisa explains.

Later you can present a model for time and texting limits and expectations for either self-management or a payback plan that ultimately either of you can afford. 

Responsibility won’t develop without privileges.  Children can learn responsibility from owning and using a cell phone but parents will have to lay out the “411” on boundaries and expectations.