Cell Phones in Schools: Supports for Families

Families play a critical role in supporting the reduction of cell phone use for Ohio’s students. By reducing cell phone usage at home and supporting school cell phone policies, families put their children in a position to learn and be healthy.

Talking to Your Child About Cell Phones 

Families can prepare their children for success by having open conversations and setting clear boundaries and expectations about cell phone use. Caregivers can welcome an open discussion about cell phone use, including sharing concerns and expectations and using active listening skills. Consider the following when talking with your children:  

  • Have conversations about your child’s interests and what apps they use the most. 
  • Ask non-judgmental questions that encourage your child to reflect on how using the cell phone makes them feel. Help them consider their emotions, thoughts, and their ability to focus. Help them consider when they are using cell phones as a strategy to avoid facing another task or discussion. 
  • Facilitate conversations that help you and your child understand the underlying reasons your child might use their cell phone frequently. They may have a friend who is distressed or a game or app they consistently play, or they may be avoiding stressful interactions.
  • Talk to your child about online safety, including having a digital footprint that cannot be erased. Discuss the importance of never disclosing any personal information online.
  • Consider establishing a family media plan to promote open family discussion and rules about media use, including topics such as balancing online time, content boundaries, and not disclosing personal information.
  • Have a conversation with your child about the importance of following the school’s policy. Share how you and your child can operate through the school’s established protocol in various scenarios.

Strategies to Reduce Cell Phone Use Outside of School 

Families can apply strategies that promote healthy behaviors and reduce cell phone use so their children can feel and perform their best at both school and home. In addition to the open conversations described above, families can consider some of the items below as they work toward supporting their children’s wellness.  

  • Take a pledge with other parents to wait until at least 8th grade to give your child a smart cell phone. 
  • Promote unstructured and offline connections with family members and peers. 
  • Allow children to take reasonable risks, like exploring the outdoors or trying a new sport or instrument.
  • Encourage physical activity, such as playing outside or taking a walk with a friend or family member.
  • Find ways to play with younger children, including arts, crafts, experiments, and unstructured free play. 
  • ​Consider structured after-school activities, such as sports, music, drama, science, or art-related clubs.
  • Keep mealtimes device-free to foster an environment that encourages family members to socially interact and engage in conversation.
  • Help your child select educational media that encourages creativity and accelerates their learning. 
  • Keep cell phones out of your child’s bedroom. Use a standard alarm clock instead of a cell phone. 
  • Set expectations around cell phone and general screen use at night. Set a screen-free routine with your child, like reading, to help them settle in for the night. If children are doing homework that requires a screen late, help them find a routine that calms their brain and body down after they turn off the device.
  • Become familiar with any apps or social media your child uses frequently. Research and understand the apps to determine if you will allow them and, if so, any limits you need to set.
  • Help your child adjust notification settings and set time limits on their devices for application time limits, time of day, and overall use.
  • Track (with your child) how much time your child uses the cell phone and set limits for use.
  • Set parental controls on your child’s cell phone and talk to other caregivers about how they track what their child is doing to stay aware of trends.
  • Establish consequences for problematic use. Talk to your child about when and how they can use their cell phone and the implications if they do not follow the expectations.
  • Resist the urge to text your child during the school day. Follow your school policy for communication with your child during the school day.
  • Model your own cell phone usage. Pay attention to how often you are using it and how it makes you feel. Control what you view on your cell phone (positive experiences, block users or apps that are damaging). Work with other families or friends to create boundaries, and talk with others about what you are seeing.
  • Set a good example about what responsible and healthy use looks like by limiting your own cell phone use, monitoring your own habits, and making clear attempts to avoid unnecessary cell phone use.  

Resources for Families 

Other Toolkit Resources 

Last Modified: 5/29/2024 4:05:04 PM