Cell Phone Etiquette – How to Teach Your Kids to Use Them Responsibly

Teaching your child to say “please” and “thank you” is usually second nature; it’s been done for generations and comes pretty naturally. But teaching your children how to use a cell phone responsibly – that is, how to exercise proper “cell phone etiquette” – may be a bit more of a gray area.

As public cell phone use continues to increase, a set of general, behavioral guidelines is beginning to take shape. Here are some tips on how to teach this important lesson of proper cell phone use.


When you’re on a cell phone, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t the only one in the room. Teens may get caught up in a cell phone conversation that should be private, but it becomes quite public as they chat away in a public area. Remind your kid that private conversations should take place behind closed doors. You might even give him or her a phrase to use that can be called upon when a cell phone conversation needs to be curtailed temporarily.


It can’t be emphasized enough that cell phone use and driving do not mix. Texting while driving is notoriously dangerous, but sometimes we forget to point out to our kids that talking on the phone while driving is not a good idea, either.

Even if your child is not driving, she should keep cell phone use limited. As a passenger, she may distract the driver with her reactions to messages or conversations, or she may try to show the driver a picture or message. Make sure you teach your child detailed rules about cell phone use in the car.


Cyber-bullying is becoming a problem for more and more kids. Teach your child that bullying stops with him; he has a responsibility not to pass on mean or destructive messages, whether text or voice. If your child is the victim of cyber-bullying, or you think he may become a victim, discuss how to handle it. Bullying should be reported to school officials and staff as well as parents.

Talking to the Family

For some families, a child’s cell phone use becomes frustrating; they feel like their child is always on the phone and never talks directly to family members.

Parents can set rules for cell phone use, just like their parents did for the regular land line phone when they were kids. Many times, parents are the ones paying for the cell phone, giving them jurisdiction over its use. It teaches good etiquette when parents make firm rules about when the cell phone needs to be put away and turned off.

When to Turn It Off

Nearly everyone who has a cell phone has been caught in the embarrassing situation of having left their cell phone on at an inappropriate time. While this is understandable, a general guideline that everyone (including children) can follow is to turn off your cell phone in certain public places, such as the library, places of worship, movie theaters, hospitals, and anywhere a “turn off cell phones” notice is posted.

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