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How to Limit a Kid's Phone Use

by Sandra Ketcham

Kids are using phones at increasingly younger ages, with more than half having their own cell phone by the tween years. If you're worried about your child's phone use, you have good cause. Excessive phone use can negatively affect school grades and keep your kiddo up past bedtime. It can also increase her risk of anxiety and depression, according to the Center on Media and Child Health. Setting limits on phone use is tricky, but worth it. The key is to enforce phone rules consistently.

Talk to your child about phone safety and responsibility, and explain phone rules in detail so no misunderstanding exists about what is expected. If you've decided on specific time limits for phone use for your child, write those limits down and hang the paper on the refrigerator so there's no possibility of forgetting -- or pretending to.

Establish firm rules about when and where it is appropriate to talk on the phone. Insist that your child leave her phone at home or at least turn it off while in class, church or other locations where using the phone would be a distraction.

Remove any landline from your child's bedroom and insist that she hand over her cell phone after dinner or at bedtime, whatever you feel is most appropriate for your child's age.

Give your younger child a limited cell phone that only allows calls to specific, programmed numbers. This will ensure your kid can reach you in the event of an emergency while also preventing her from calling friends or sending/receiving text messages.

Consider a prepaid cell phone if your child goes over her minutes. Ensure that your child understands that she has a set amount of minutes per month and that going over that number means no phone for the remainder of the month.

Change your child's plan to prevent text messaging if your kid is using too much data or refusing to follow the limits you've placed on her phone use. If your phone carrier offers parental controls, use them.

Enforce the rules. If your child frequently violates the rules, but circumstances make it necessary for your child to carry a cell phone, give her a phone without web browsing and text messaging capabilities and take custody of the phone whenever she enters your house.

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