Blake Snow

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Smartphone rules for kids: What I made my child agree to

After years of asking, I finally caved into giving my oldest child a “smartphone” for her 14th birthday. I say “smartphone” in quotes because we really just bought her an iPhone without a carrier plan (aka the latest iPod touch).

To use her phone and send and receive calls and texts from a virtual number app, she must be connected to wifi. She’s happy for now, although this is likely only a two year stop gap until she starts driving and we start teaching her full smartphone etiquette before she leaves home.

But for now, we’re all happy. Especially since my daughter has agreed to obeying the following rules, as outlined in my book:


Dear Sadie,

Your mother and I are so proud of the beautiful, intelligent, playful, social, kind, obedient, spiritual, athletic, hard-working, musical, and fun-loving young woman you have become. We couldn’t have asked for a more remarkable first child. You have blessed our lives, the lives of your siblings, and our community so much already. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do and become over the next few years. 

As promised, here is your own “phone.” I know it’s not everything you wanted, but your mother and I feel strongly that it’s what you need until you start driving and working outside of the home in the next two years. (FUN FACT: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and many other technology makers didn’t let their kids have “dumb” phones until your age either, and even then they restricted them, as I’m about to do.)

Now for the rules. By using this phone, you acknowledge the following: 

  1. I understand that this phone is a loaner from my parents. It is not my personal property. As such, my parents can revok, restrict my access to, and take my phone (either temporarily or long-term “grounding”) as they see fit. 
  2. I understand that this is not a private phone. My parents will be able to see and monitor my usage, photos, texts, emails, apps, and anything else I do on it. 
  3. I understand that I am not allowed to sleep with my phone in my room and will return it to the kitchen at the end of each day (i.e. 9 pm on school nights). 
  4. I will not use my phone during meals or in the presence of friends or family, unless it’s agreed upon by everyone that I briefly should. 
  5. I will not bully or be mean to anyone on my phone. 
  6. I will give my parents every password that I am required to use on my phone. 
  7. I will not take inappropriate photos with my phone, nor will I send or receive inappropriate photos. If I ever see anything inappropriate on my phone, I will immediately notify my parents.
  8. I will work with my parents to keep and use a manageable number of apps on my phone (i.e. 5-10 extras)
  9. I will use my phone to socialize, create, learn, and grow as a person without becoming attached to it like so many children and adults have before me. I will use my phone to enhance my life rather than using it as something to spend my life on. If I’m not having fun with it, I will walk away from it. 
  10. I understand that if I abuse or disobey any of the above, I will lose the right to use my phone. 

That said, you are beginning a wonderful part of life with the most powerful supercomputer ever created to fit in your pocket. Use this power well. Do great things with it. We love you. 

Happy Birthday!

Dad (& Mom)