Is It Too Late to Establish Smartphone and Social Media Guidelines?

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February 5, 2020

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.


Irene C.

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Learn more about smartphone and social media agreements and create a custom agreement with your family with our course "Smartphone & Social Media Agreements: What Parents, Educators & Students Need to Know"

Is it too late to establish smartphone and social media guidelines? By Josh Ochs

Josh recently received an email from a concerned mom about social media guidelines for her son. This is what she said:

Is it too late to establish guidelines if my son is nearly 17? He has only had his phone (and social media sites) since September and I already see a difference in him. Also, I am looking for some suggestions on appropriate amounts of time for the student to have their phones.  I know that is part of the parent/child agreement, and it is up to the parent... but do you have any specific  suggestions? I am angry at myself that my husband and I did not set up these guidelines before allowing our son to have a phone.  (He purchased it himself but we pay for the service). 

The mom came on the Smart Social Podcast to share her phone and social media struggles with other parents. Josh offered her four important tips - to help combat smartphone and social media addiction.

Parents can set rules, even if the student pays for the phone

When students under 18 are living under your roof, you have permission to protect them at all costs. The mom Josh spoke with was worried about disrespecting her son by implementing rules after the fact. But there are 7 billion people in the world who could contact your students through the apps they are on.

It’s important to explain why you are implementing new rules. Watch Smart Social's workshops, with your students, so you don’t have to be the bad guy:

Understand how addicting smartphones can be

Let’s say you buy one gallon of your student’s favorite ice cream, then go home and tell your student they can watch Netflix and eat the ice cream while you go to work for 3-5 hours. You hand them a spoon and then leave them to it. What do you think your kids will do with all that ice cream? They will eat it all.

Students often don’t know when to stop until they are sick or until their parents tell them to stop. It’s okay for students to have a little bit of ice cream, but not the whole gallon. The same applies to smartphones and social media. Many parents give smartphones to kids without much instruction on how to use them safely - and that puts them at risk.

It’s important to set guidelines. Consider using a smartphone and social media agreement to lay out rules for your family. Students need to know the consequences of not following your rules. It’s okay to take their phone away, even if - like this mom - you didn’t pay for your student’s phone.

It’s okay to check their phones

If your student doesn’t want you to “invade their privacy,” that could mean there’s probably something on their phone that you really should see. 

Share the pass codes for your phone with your students and have them share their pass codes with you. Set a good example by being open with your information so that they know it’s okay to share theirs. The more willing you are to follow the guidelines you set, the more willing your students will be as well.

Time restrictions are important

Students shouldn’t use their phones while doing homework. Too much social media time can be detrimental. It can get addicting, impact mental health, and take time away from the outside world. Although your student might initially feel upset about time limits, the longer the restriction is in place, the more your students will understand. They may even thank you for it.

Create social media guidelines together

Talk with your students about rules and limits before you implement them. If you need help voicing your concerns about your student’s safety, consider turning to a therapist who can help you grow your communication skills and maintain a healthy relationship with your kids.

Some kids look to their parents to take the stress of phone addiction away, but they don’t know how to ask for it. Just remember to be gentle. Don’t create smartphone and social media rules in a state of anger. Explain the plan and then implement it later.

Smart Social has many workshops to help parents talk to their kids about social media dangers. Watch them by yourself first, then bring your students in:


Don’t keep your fears internalized. There are real reasons why parents are concerned about their student’s smartphone and social media activity.

Encourage your student to find a balance of online and offline activities. Have dinner together as a family. Invite their significant other over for a movie night. Play boardgames or solve puzzles. Help them remember there is so much out there in the world for them to discover - away from social media.

Are you ready to create a smartphone and social media agreement for your family? Click here to learn more: Smartphone & Social Media Agreements: What Parents, Educators & Students Need to Know

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