Ask the Practice Parent: Getting and Keeping a Cell Phone

Dear Practice Parent,

How do I convince my old fashioned parents to buy me a smart phone?  


It is likely that when your parents were teens, the worst trouble they could get into with a phone was having the object of their crank calls figure them out. Today, the whole phone issue is much more complicated. It involves choosing a phone and the bells and whistles that will accompany it, finding the right plan, finances, safety concerns, ethical issues, and self-control. No wonder so many parents are nervous about buying their child a phone. If you think you are ready for one, though, sit down with your parents and suggest a plan of action. Here are some pointers to guide you in both attaining and maintaining your own phone:

1. If you are a ‘tween, young teen, or your parents are resistant to allowing you to have your own phone, consider suggesting a practice phone first. It might ease your parents into the idea if you choose a simple phone and plan, perhaps even one that allows you to program in a few important contacts for calling and texting. Suggest that you add more contacts and greater features as you demonstrate responsibility and maturity in the use of the phone. Allow your parents to monitor the phone and discuss any mistakes you are making. This will demonstrate to them that you are willing to be a responsible phone owner from the very beginning, and that you value their wisdom.

2. If your parents are willing to consider a smart phone right away, choose one that fits into your family’s budget (hint: it should not be a better one than your parents have) and offer to share the financial burden. If you want a more expensive phone but don’t have a source of income, you might ask that the phone replace holiday gifts. Be willing to start small and upgrade later. Decide together how you will replace the phone if lost, stolen, or broken.

3. Ask your parents to join you in creating a mutually agreed-upon list of rules for your phone. The rules should go both ways. For example, while you promise to put the phone away during family time, your parents promise not to call or text unnecessarily while you are hanging out with friends. There are several sample lists of rules online, but it is best to tailor your rules to your needs. Both you and your parents should re-visit and revise the rules as needs and situations arise.

4. Understand that texting and social media are just two forms of communication. Make a point to communicate regularly via calls, video chat, visits, etc., especially with friends and family who do not text or use social media. This will demonstrate to your parents that you are not using technology to replace relationships (a big fear for pre-smart phone adults).

5. If you make a mistake on your phone, such as forwarding questionable pictures or downloading items you are not allowed to download, confess it to your parents. In this era of technology, they are bound to find out anyway. They will feel better about your continuing phone use if you demonstrate that you understand and are sorry for and have learned from the mistakes you have made.

6. Never text or play on the phone while driving or walking (both cause a frightening amount of accidents). You can’t keep the phone if you are dead.

7. Try to understand your parents’ fears, both the rational and irrational ones. They will feel better about your phone usage if they know you are working with them and not against them.


Good luck!