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6 Recurring Issues with Kids’ Smartphone Use and How To Deal With Them

Now that the kids are really back in school, the routines are starting to settle in.

For those of us who have given our children the privilege of cell phone use, this tends to be a time that we begin to be annoyed by certain ‘behaviours’ that frustrate us about our child’s smartphone use and that we did not consider prior to granting them this privilege.  Fortunately, these behaviours can all be corrected with a few rules…While these may seem obvious to some of us, parents have thanked me for sharing these tips

In addition, BTW…Like everyone else, my hubby and I are still learning as we go…

See if any of these frustrations sound familiar to you…

” One of the biggest reasons I got my son a cell phone was so that I could check that he is safe when he rides the bus home from school…and now when I call, he doesn’t answer, so I worry sick until he gets home!” 


1-Battery is Dead

2- As you likely have noticed, kids rarely use their phones to SPEAK.  They simply TEXT. As such, many teens keep the ringer to their phone on silent.


1- Make a rule about keeping your cell phone charged ( and having a backup battery if your phone tends to be problematic).  (I have told my kids that my ability to reach them supersedes any game-playing or friend texting- If you are on low-batt, conserve your energy for an emergency or for me to call you!)

2- Figure out whether it in your case it is preferable to have your child keep their ringer on, or whether you are more comfortable to text instead of call.

3- A backup battery can work wonders even for phones that do not lose battery quickly,  but your child has to keep this charged as well…

 I am often driving in my car at the time school lets out and I will get a series of texts, that I cannot possibly read and/or answer while driving, for example:


“Can I stay at school to work on a project now and take the late bus home?”

“I need to know- bus is leaving”




Teens tend to live in their own bubble and it doesn’t occur to them that you may be operating a motor vehicle or be otherwise indisposed.


Remind kids that if they need a timely answer to CALL PERIOD.

I kid you not…they need to be taught this. I actually got a text like this one morning from one of my kids, on the bus, the 1st year they had their cell phone:

” I think I’m having an allergic reaction”


I hadn’t checked my texts because I was cleaning up in the kitchen and did not hear.

Everything ended up being fine, but I had to explain that a possible allergic reaction is not the time to text in silence…As long as you can, Speak up! Call!  If I don’t answer call another line! Tell a nearby adult! Make it known that there may be a concern here!

Explain this to your child- do not assume that they would know to do this. For them, communication via text is communicating….even when it’s not enough.

“My daughter is sleeping over at her friend’s home, I am calling and she is not answering.  I have no idea what her friend’s home number is and I am getting worried.”


1- Since kids are supposed to be ‘instantly reachable’ on their cells, parents tend to forget about asking for the phone number and home address even when their child is staying the night.

2- As mentioned above, kids forget to charge their phones – even more so in longer day/sleepover situations

3- The combination of the above results in the problem.


1- Always get the pertinent info for where your child is staying- Home phone #, address, parent name(s) ( even parent cell number).  Also- Don’t be afraid to ask your child to share his/her friend’s own cell number. Of course you’re not going to be calling your kid’s friends, but in the event of an emergency when you REALLY cannot get in touch with your child, this could be a lifesaver.

2- Make a rule about your child keeping their cell phone charged ( and include ‘charger’ on the sleepover packing list if you have one!)

Conversely, because kids communicate with each other directly, the ‘need’ for kids to have home phone numbers or any way to communicate with friends’ parents seems to have disappeared. For this reason, I am adding this necessary SAFETY TIP:  Make sure your child’s friends have YOUR phone number ( cell, home or other). If you want to know why, READ THIS TRUE STORY: Why Your Kid’s Friends Must Have YOUR Cell Phone Number. It’s scary, but we can all learn from it.

“I think that my daughter has gone to sleep but then I realize that she is on her cell phone…”


This one isn’t rocket science…They have access.  We also know that kids can suffer from FOMO ( Fear Of Missing Out) so they like to keep their cell phones close by…


Insist that phones be charged overnight OUTSIDE of the bedroom.  In our home we created a “Family Charging Station” and it has really made a difference. Phones are charged overnight, which helps with the charging issue, and they are in the dining room area – away from the kids at bedtime. Note that you can actually buy a multi-device charging station, but we made one  and all it cost was $6 + a power bar 🙂

I bought 2 Stationery/Mail sorters from the Dollar Store ( $3 each)

IMG_4441 (1)

We got a power bar ( This one is particularly awesome as the plugs rotate, so you can actually get use of ALL of them even if you have an oversized charger plugged into another plug.

IMG_4440 (1)

Phones go into the pencil holder portions, iPads & Kindles, chargers, etc go into the letter sorters.

IMG_4443 (1)


At first it took reminding that phones are not charged in the bedroom…there was pushback about using phones as alarm clocks…we bought inexpensive alarm clocks for all of the kids.  The extra sleep that they are getting is worth every penny of that investment.

BONUS: We also have a rule that phones are not removed from the charging station until a set time.  This eliminated the texting friends in the morning instead of getting ready problem.

To work on: My hubby & I should really be charging our phones here as well…we keep saying we’re going to but haven’t gotten around to it yet….It would be good for everyone if we did 😉

“I keep hearing conflicting messages about whether or not social media is safe for my child to use…but all of her friends are on Instagram and Snapchat.  Do I really need to be concerned? I wish there were lessons for parents…”


One reason for the conflicting messages is that it has become so mainstream that we don’t feel threatened by it in any way.

One of the biggest issues is that the kids themselves don’t realize that in the new world of perpetual sharing, what they consider to be funny to post today can come back to haunt them when they apply to University or for a job later. FACT.

So the answer is: Yes, you should be concerned, but being informed is the best way to figure out what platforms you will allow your child to use and under what “Rules of engagement”.

That being said, responsible social media use, so long as your child is of age, is not necessarily a bad thing, and when used properly can even become a good thing.  The most important thing is to understand where the dangers lie, how to avoid them and above all else to understand what your digital footprint is and how to keep it ‘clean’.

So the answer is YES, you should be concerned, but there are ways to deal with this concern…


Get informed.  Knowledge is power is absolutely true in this case.  An excellent resource is TELUS WISE, a program created by TELUS to educate kids, parents and even teachers about online responsibility and digital footprint. There are programs for all ages.  Check it out by clicking HERE.  There is a wealth of information targeting all different age groups. It’s an excellent program. You can even request a TELUS LIVE rep to come speak at your kids’ school ( elementary or High School – different programs for each) and they can address the students and/or the educators. We did this last year and it was great! If you want a sampling of what you can learn, read Kids, Smartphones & Social Media…14 Things You Need To Know. I wrote this after I attended TELUS Wise sessions at my kids schools.  I can tell you that I got a lot of thanks from parents after posting that article!

“My son is always going over his plan”


This one can be overuse- lack of understanding of how much data it takes to stream a video, or simply a lack of understanding or respect for limits.

In a perfect world, we have figured out all the potential issues that may possibly arise with smartphone use and laid out the rules prior to handing over that phone. In reality, even those of us with the best laid plans often encounter challenges that we did not even consider. Additionally, kids usage patterns can change and that that’s when we sometimes have to revisit and adjust the parameters and rules for smartphone use in our homes.  It’s never too late to adjust.

Have a clearly defined set of Terms of Use.  Ideally, this is in writing. This should include things such as:

  • Who pays for the phone and / or the plan?  Who pays if the plan is exceeded? ( ensure that the responsible party has funds to make good on this deal-if not, perhaps they can pay back by taking on additional responsibilities at home?)
  • If not already set, what are the limits?  What will you choose to limit? Number of minutes/hours per day/week/ month of use for calls, screen time and if your child has it – data? How many texts?
  • Note: We often like the idea of shared data with our kids, because up front the plan may make more sense…don’t be afraid to choose a limited plan…Kids need limits and understanding what the boundaries are can help them to better regulate their usage.
  • Phone is never to be used for_______( You fill in the blank: e.g. bullying, cheating, etc.)
  • Are there times at which point the phone may not be used? ( e.g 10:30 PM- 7:30 AM or ‘during school hours’or ‘at the dinner table’) If so, what are those times?
  • Smartphone care & damage: Where is the phone to be stored when not in use?  Is is always to be kept in a case?
  • What are the consequences if Terms of Use are not followed?  If phone is lost, broken or stolen?
  • Note that you can find some great Cell phone agreements / contracts for parents to use with their kids through a google search- Customize them to include terms that you feel are missing and to remove anything you feel is not necessary.

Were any of these issues familiar to you?  Have you had other issues and did you find solutions? If yes I would love to hear from you! Please share them below!

Hope this has been somewhat helpful – Please let me know 🙂


Disclosure: I am part of  #TeamTelus and from time to time receive products and access to special events. As always, all opinions contained herein are my own and can never be bought 🙂

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