We Craft the Perfect Teen Smartphone Agreement

Okay, so maybe “perfect” is a bit enthusiastic, but when my 13yo daughter K- expressed dissatisfaction with her clunky feature phone and asked for an upgrade to an Apple iPhone 6 or 6s, I wasn’t surprised. Who wants an old-school device when everyone around you has modern tech? But I wasn’t about to just give her a window onto the wild west of the Internet and access to people – known and unknown – 24×7.

We already had a basic cellphone usage agreement with her, based on what we did with her older siblings, but the jump to an always-online device with access to thousands of apps, streaming TV and movies, and so much more required an upgrade! And so, based our earlier contract, her Mom and I slipped in some additional statements and came up with what we feel is a contract that reinforced that using a smartphone is a privilege, not a right.

But first, my girl signing the contract:

girl signing smartphone usage contract

Here’s what we came up with:

Teen Smart Phone Agreement

The agreement for a cell phone consists of the following:

1. This phone is a privilege and only available when you are doing well in school, completing your chores in a timely manner and behaving as part of the family.
2. This phone is only for communicating with family and friends you know from school. No-one else. No friends of friends, people you might meet on vacation, etc.
3. You are not allowed to enter online chat rooms or connect with/be friends with strangers on Snapchat, music.ly, Instagram, etc.
4. You agree to never share your phone number with anyone you do not already know. Never post it online.
5. All parents reserve the right to go through your call log, text messages, apps, and other communication as they deem necessary for your safety or security. They will try to do so with you present, but if there is an occasion when this does not happen, it’s not a breach of this agreement.
6. Expect us to go through your phone once/week.
7. You will always share your current passwords. No secrets.
8. Transmission of any inappropriate photos, text messages, bullying or hostility is completely unacceptable. This works both ways, and you are expected to share with a parent anything bad or concerning that you receive.
9. The phone is only available during hours we agree upon, never overnight at home.
10. The phone must be on the kitchen counter at whatever house you are living by 9pm school nights and 10:00 weekends/non-school nights.
11. We parents expect you to use good judgment with this phone with friends and on sleepovers. No inappropriate surfing on the web, texting, etc.
12. If phone use becomes a source of stress or tension, it will go away for an undetermined amount of time.
13. Violation of any of these rules is grounds for immediate loss of the phone.




K- spent time reading through the contract, line by line, and the two concerns she expressed with it as written were that the “weekend end time” was too early at 10pm. We stuck with it, but offered that on vacations the timing could be discussed as appropriate. She also asked about new friends she met and would like to exchange numbers with through volleyball or other extracurricular activities. Our solution: Tell us so we’ll know who they are, and we reserve veto power if we feel it’s an inappropriate friendship.

She signed, we signed it, and then I surprised her with a mint-condition used Apple iPhone 6 from Orchard Labs that I’d already taken to the AT&T store to have assigned to her phone number. It was in the box sitting next to the contract the whole time (you can see it in the first photo!) and she never noticed. Her reaction to opening up the box and realizing what it was? Priceless:

delighted girl with new smartphone iphone

Now, of course, the hardest part: All of us remembering and sticking to the agreement.

Having the Teen Smartphone Agreement is part of what I generally consider thoughtful parenting, where I try to anticipate problems and issues and seek to solve them before it becomes difficult. It’s like having a standard device “bedtime”, as I’ve written about before. No excuses about using the phone as an alarm clock, no hassle on a nightly basis about them being in the middle of an important conversation, just time, schedule, rules and agreement beforehand. Surprising how much stress can be alleviated by clear boundaries with children…

What did you agree to with your child before you gave them a smartphone? Or did you just do it and trust they’d be mature and thoughtful in their device usage?

One comment on “We Craft the Perfect Teen Smartphone Agreement

  1. Thanks! As a Mom of two teenage boys and Middle school teacher – negotiating phones, devices etc. is part of daily conversation. I’m going to borrow this contract! and share it with class parents too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *