Cell Phone Rules at Your House for Kids' Friends/visitors

Updated on March 17, 2014
L.T. asks from Houston, TX
35 answers

I'm curious if any of you have rules about cell phone use in your home when your teenage kids' friends come over. Whether your child has one or not is not what I'm asking about--b/c even if yours doesn't many of their friends probably do.

A friend of mine has a rule in her house that when they have a group of friends over, say hanging out in a game room, or a sleepover all phones need to be put in a bucket in the kitchen. I like this idea but am not sure how this would go over here as I know some of my daughter's friends like to have their phones handy so they can call or text their parents. Yes, they can ask to use the house phone and I'm fine with that but my daughter thinks that's too "weird" (generational thing I guess!)

With all the online sharing of things using cell phones these days, I'd like to have some guidelines that are reasonable but not too out there. TIA!

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So What Happened?

I am editing my response because I initially responded prematurely after only 3 or 4 replies one of which has now I see, completely changed her reply which was almost a personal attack. This is definitely an emotional topic and glad to hear both sides of it. To clarify, putting cell phones in a bucket/basket would not mean they'd go into a locked closet and be inaccessible for the time period they are here. I was thinking more like a basket on the kitchen counter where it's not attached to your hand the whole time but still available. Call me old school, but if a child or parent needs to get in touch with each other they hopefully will ask the hosting parent to use their phone (if the child didn't have one) or the guest parent would have my contact info. to get in touch with me. I don't drop my kids off at people's houses where I don't have their contact info. On a slightly different note as to why I'm thinking this way.....a couple of times my friend's daughter called her mom at a sleepover (this was when they were in 4th or 5th grade-not at my house but a mutual friend's) to have her parent come pick her up in the middle of the night b/c she couldn't sleep. The parent knocked on the door and the hosting parent had no idea what was going on. My lesson learned from that, I tell kids who are sleeping over if they want to go home in the middle of the night to wake my child and have him/her come get me so both parents know what's going on. No questions asked b/c my own kids sometimes want to come home even at houses they've slept at before.

Right now, only my daughter has a phone and it is to be checked in at bedtime and she knows we read her texts and check photos. She has no social media accounts but I do check for new apps that she may try to install without permission. Those are the rules for my kids for having a phone in our house.

It kind of drives me crazy even with my own friends sometimes who will text me a whole conversation instead of picking up the phone just to call and chat. I'm not a phone talker so won't keep you on the phone forever and sometimes *I* will give a quick call to answer their questions as that's just easier. But I digress. That said, even for adults, I don't think it is that "out there" to ask people to put their phones down when they are in social situations. I've seen where some people do put their phones in the center of the table when going out to eat and the first one to reach for their phone has to pay the bill.

Like some of you mentioned, I'm try to be around when we have groups of kids home even if they don't realize it (of course I'm at home but I mean, I'm actually in/near the room they are hanging out it). I'll be cooking or cleaning in the kitchen nearby. Maybe working on some other project where it looks like I'm busy but my ears and eyes are still open. I guess it just depends on the dymamics of the group and each situation as to what works best.

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answers from Washington DC on

well, the phones can still go into a bucket in the kitchen, and the girls can come out there and call or text their parents if they need to, right? it's not so much about 'you are not allowed to communicate with the outside world' as 'the world will not cease to exist if you have to walk 10 feet to reconnect.'
the problem with everyone keeping their phones at their hips is that they don't talk to each other, everyone sits in their own zone and texts.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Just a comment here...... long ago, when there WERE no cell phones, kids actually interacted with each other!

It is rather sad, nowadays, that when kids get together, they are each in their own little world of interacting only with their cell phone interface.

Have you seen the movie "Wall-E"? The scene inside the mothership, where, for generations, people just zoom around on their individual little chairs, interacting only with their screen?

Kind of sad, actually.

I have a feeling I would be one of those parents who would ask the kids to give up the cell phone at the door if this were going to be the case..... I would rather have the kids KEEP their phones on them, but not be using them instead of interacting with their friends.

Hopefully the parents would trust ME to take care of their child,and that they wouldn't feel the need to contact their child INSTANTLY.........

And yes, we've had those times at the holidays, when my kids are back home (they are all grown and out of the house), where they are all sitting on the couch/chairs, playing on their tablets..... but... there are plenty of times where there is a lot of appropriate person-to-person interaction.

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answers from Norfolk on

What is the point of going visiting with someone if you are constantly on the phone and not wholly present?
Sheesh - they might as well stay at home.
I like the all phones/devices in a bucket idea!
It's the same protocol the royals are observing ever since Prince Harry was photographed playing strip billiards in Las Vegas and it hit the tabloids.
Even young adults don't make wise decisions when it comes to this stuff.


I don't think responses are rude per say.
But it speaks to exactly how addicted some people are to phones/devices.
The degree to which people are offended by being asked to put the phone down for a visit is directly proportional to how attached they are to that device.
I really think that before my life time is over people will be having similar devices implanted and won't be able to put them down - they will NEVER want to be without it.

10 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

Why on earth would you do that? I never did such a thing and would not consider such an idea.

It's one thing if you confiscate your child's belongings but not someone else's child.

I would be livid if I found out some mom did that to my daughter if she were at a sleepover or something and her ability to contact me via phone call or text was nixed. There is a reason my daughter has a cell phone and it is not to be policed by anyone but me or hubby.

14 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have three teenagers (well one is almost 21 now.)
I wouldn't ask their friends for their cell phones during a visit any more than I would ask my adult guests for theirs.
Also I wouldn't appreciate it if someone took my kids' phones away, that's a bit of a violation of privacy and overstepping boundaries, isn't it? My kids have a lot of private, personal information/photos on their phones and I prefer they keep it to themselves.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I LOVE the bucket idea. I think it is no more rude than to ask people to take off their shoes. That is certainly generational and cultural but at this point, most people ask if they should or just do so even if they are not asked.

Doesn't mean I don't trust people to wear shoes and not step on my feet anymore than it means I don't trust kids. But it is seriously RUDE to continually text and ignore the people who are physically present.

There is also a difference between 13 and 19. I would feel perfectly comfortable setting the house rules for a middle schooler. A 19 year old falls much more in the adult category and hopefully would be able to pick up on the social norms of a situation (maybe not).

In the olden days, a child needed to ask the parent at the home he was to use the phone. That was the norm, because cell phones have not always existed. Those of us who had to ask permission to use someone's phone did not die of embarrassment.

WOW - Julie S - a bit over the top? Kids are used to having their phones taken away - they are not allowed to have them in class, right?

ETA - for people who just 'need a higher level of access' to be able to call their kids immediately - what did you do when they were 6 and 7 and had play dates? My son is 8. If I need to reach him, I call the parent supervising the play date. Since my son is often outside, playing sports or swimming, I am pretty certain he should not have a phone on his person anyway.

ETA - in our school district children are NOT allowed to have their phones with them. They are required to be turned OFF (not vibrate) and placed in their lockers. They are only allowed to bring them at all because not all kids will be stopping at home (to pick them up) before they go somewhere else where a parent might need to reach them (or they might need to call for a ride).

I also see nothing in the post that might make me conclude I don't want to be friends with the OP, people like the OP or children raised by the OP or people like her (huh?).

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We've been to a couple seminars about technology and kids and this was one idea they presented. I think it's a great plan. I try to keep all of our iPads put away during visits with friends, so that is similar. They get to use them, but not the whole time. Phones in the future will be similar. I'll want to make sure they are put away at night at least. I'd rather have the kids at the sleepover entertaining each other with ghost stories and giggles, rather than texting and you tube.

I wouldn't care at all if my child had to put his/her phone in a basket at a friend's house. It's not a big deal at all.

Some people responding are very defensive about this and I'm not sure why. I think some people just like to argue. Try to ignore it and know that I feel your pain. ;)

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on


First of all, who buys their kid a $600 phone!? Really?? I'm a grown adult, and my cell phone only costs $150. If you're worried about it being lost, stolen, or broken, then you should probably give them something cheaper.

Secondly, to all the parents losing it because they won't have immediate availability to their child, cut the cord already! I'm only 27, so I was a teenager when cellphones first started to gain popularity. I got my first phone at 16. And yet I still went to school functions and friends houses without calling or texting with my parents.

I think it all comes down to how people want to live their lives. If the parent is constantly using their phone, then the child is likely to do the same. I think those of us not glued to our phones are in the minority. It's unfortunate, but it's the truth. So you angered some posters by suggesting that being present physically is more important than a phone.

I love this suggestion, though. If I have guests over I generally do not use my phone, tablet, computer, or TV. I follow the same guidelines while at other people's houses and functions.

There was a time when society was not always connected and available. They survived. So anyone who thinks they can't live without their phone is probably just addicted. Or going with the crowd.

I say do what you want in your own home. It's really no different than asking people to remove their shoes. If they don't like it then they can leave.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Actually, I like this idea, too. Adolescents make worse choices in groups than they would alone. There was an issue at the school where I teach involving a group of girls who pressured another girl to take a selfie in her bra at a sleepover. The picture was then used as blackmail material to get the girl to shoplift.
A kid can always ask for their phone back to call a parent. Or, like you said, use the house phone.

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answers from Washington DC on

Honestly, I wouldn't allow my kids at someone's house that told them they had to hand over their phones. I get that they are there to hang out, and they will do that because that's what they WANT to do, but if I call them, I expect to be able to reach them.

Granted, my oldest is 10, but she does take her phone and/or iPad to her sleepovers. She doesn't use them the whole time, but I do want her having access to me if she wants to or needs to come home.

I think it's fairly rude to take phones away from kids and would appreciate a heads up if a parent was planning on taking my kids private property from them when they went to their house.

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answers from Albany on

I'm sorry, you're considering taking phones away from other people's TEENAGERS? For a visit? Like not for church or trig class?

That would be like you asking ME for MY phone after inviting me over to your house for coffee.



9 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi L.,

My oldest is almost 19, too old for all the girls to have been 24/7 attached to cell phones when she was still in the sleepover mode, so it was not an issue here. My only rule for phones has always been that they are not allowed at the dinner table, so my kids' friends were all told that if their parents expected to reach them and get an instant response, that they needed to text/call just before dinner to say that they'd be unavailable for about a half hour.

A friend at work was shocked at her daughter's 13th bday party to go down to the basement with snacks and find that the girls were not playing Lets Dance or Scene It, they were all texting or posting to FB on their individual phones, no real interaction. This was a party? Next time, she instituted the bucket rule. One girl opted to go home!

If you are going to do this, I think that the parents must know first, and if they want their kid to do a 10pm text home or if they want to call the house once, that has to be okay. But quite honestly, all these parents saying that they must be able to reach their kid at any moment, we all survived sleepovers and parties where our parents dropped us off and saw us later or tomorrow. Heck, my college freshman survived! Kids need to not be tethered 24/7 to mommy. If you are not comfortable sending your kid to my house or your kid isn't comfortable to be here, then don't send them. If you think I'd forbid them from using our phone to call you or ask to come home, then you don't know or trust me well enough to send your child here. I never, ever called to check on my kid during sleepovers or parties, because I never sent her anywhere that I was uncomfortable and felt that this was a level of independence that was healthy and appropriate for kids. She's grown up NOT to be one of those "teacup" freshmen that you read about in articles!

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answers from Washington DC on


Most kids now days wouldn't know how to use the "house phone", let alone remember the number to dial as they've had a device doing it for them from the beginning...

When we have kids over to our home - there is no texting after 9PM. Same as with my kids. I do remind kids that are on their phone all the time..."You came over here to play XBOX (or whatever it is they are supposed to be doing) and texting on your phone is NOT doing that. If you'd like me to take you home, I'll be happy to." One does this a lot - as his girlfriend (they are both 15) is TOTAL high maintenance and needs to know where he is...

Oh well...I've heard of people having people put their keys and cell phones in a basket at the door. I've not done it.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

To have all cell phones put in a bucket infers that the kids are not trusted or cannot be trusted, justifiably.
And that, you are overstepping their parents and "taking away" their personal items.
I imagine, then, kids may not want to even go over to that house anymore. Those are weird rules. And I don't know what the parents of those friends, think about that.

Kids nowadays, have cell phones. Their parents, let them have one.
Kids, depending on the type of cell phone they have, they can go online.
And per the rules they have from their parents, they can or cannot do certain things on their phones.
And their cell phones, ARE a way that their parents can get a hold of them, via calling them or texting them. And they SHOULD have their cell phones, on.
And if, that home requires that all the kids put their cell phones in a bucket in the kitchen, THEN the parents of those kids, SHOULD be told... so that, those parents then know, that they CANNOT get a hold of their child. If they need to.

Fact #2)
Not all kids are, irresponsible with their cell phones or online usage or about "sharing" info via their phones. Not all kids, do that.
Some kids are, responsible about cell phone usage and online usage and texting.
My daughter is. She is in middle school.
And even if her friends, MAY be doing things on their cell phones, it does not mean, my daughter is doing the same thing.

Many of my daughter's friends, come over to our house.
I don't ask them to put their phones in a bucket or turn it off.
They play apps on their phones. Some do Instagram. It was permitted by that child's, parents. My daughter, has her OWN RULES, about online or cell phone usage, by us. And she abides by that. And she knows the difference... between what her friends do online/or on their cell phones, versus herself... and what she is permitted to do or not. Versus her friends. And if she is not sure, she asks me permission. She will even, (if she is at someone's house), she will CALL ME, to ask permission. First. She's not a mindless copy cat.
And she openly shows us, what she is doing. Without us even having to ask her or hound her about it or hover over her.

And if her friends are over here, and they are on their iTouch or cell phones playing things on it... I can ask them what they are doing or playing. Its no big deal. And there have been times I told my kids' friend "Oh, what's that? I never heard of that app before... can you show me? Are you sure its safe?" And they, show me. No big deal. They know me and that I am just being a "Mom."
Its fine.
And besides, we are all in the house together... openly doing things. Not just all separate and unknowing about activities going on.

And ya know what? When my daughter's friends are over at our house, its not like they have their cell phones ATTACHED permanently to them. They do not, carry it around constantly. They mostly just put their personal purse/bag somewhere in the house, and put their cell phone there too, which is turned on. And then they go and play and do OTHER things. They are NOT just on their phones, constantly nor constantly carrying it around. But they do check it occasionally to see if their parents called them or texted them. AND when I hear a cell phone of theirs ringing, I TELL that child.

And if anything, I ASK the other kid's parent, if they are allowed to do something or not. With their gadget. OR I ask the kid, herself.
What's the big deal about asking things, upfront?
No need to hover around making all secret about it and pretending.
I'm just upfront about things.
ie: if and when, my daughter's friends are over here, and they happen to be on their cell phones or iTouch playing something or showing each other... I WILL just say "what are you guys playing?" in a casual nonchalant manner.
And they tell me. And show me.
No big deal.
They know I am not being a "police" about it.
There is no big deal about it.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita on

Hello L.. We have five children, three of which are teens. Our cell phone rules (Iphone 4s) is that they are to keep their phones on the main level of the house. The reason for that is we are typically on the main level, and if we didn't have that rule we would never see our kids. Second, they go to bed at night. There is a charging station in the kitchen they all are to hook their phones up to. We have AT&T smart limits so their phones shut off at 9pm anyways. We also have parental controls set up and manipulate them as per the usage. i.e. if the kids are deleting their messages we just shut everything off. OR, if they are abusing their cameras we shut off access to that. Basically they have learned from their mistakes of misuse and we typically don't have to do anything anymore. The idea is to teach them to use them responsibility. ( we hope it's working) anywho, keeping them on the main level with them helps because it forces them to be involved with us and we are able to keep an eye on them as well. We are happy with our rules on the phones :) Good luck!

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answers from Richland on

I will be succinct, you are saying that you do not trust these kids. You are saying you don't think their parents have raised responsible kids. Then you take away a device that costs around 600 dollars and I am supposed to trust you not to break it, lose it, let a sibling get it.

Not happening.

Kids police each other. If you cannot trust that you should not have a slumber party.

Actually Dana they are allowed to have them in class, and on the bus, and at friends houses.

Really in the end, I don't associate with people like the OP, my kids don't make friends with the children these types produce. I can only speak of my friends, my kids friend's parents and this parent would make her children very unpopular in our circles because we raise kids with manners who are quite insulted when parents think they haven't learned this yet.

What she is saying is I don't know these kids and I don't trust these kids. No thanks! Don't want my kids around people like that.

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answers from Chicago on

Not only would I not be ok with you taking my 13 year old daughter's phone away, but I wouldn't let go to a house where that was the policy..... I just need a higher level of access to her I guess.

That being said, I really like some of the suggestions to say "you came overs here to *xyz* but I see you've got other things to do.... Do I need to take you home?"

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answers from Salinas on

Just an observation...

The people saying they wouldn't allow their children at your house if their precious child had to put the phone down for a few hours are just as controlling as they are accusing you of being.

I don't agree with either extreme. When teens are glued to their phones at our house I say something about it in a gentle or teasing way.

"Want a ride to the beach? Mall? Pool?"
"Are you silly girls going to stare at those phones all day or go enjoy this beautiful day?"
"You guys are going to go blind if you keep staring at those tiny screens"

Then there are times I say nothing at all because they are in fact teenagers. We don't have to endorse everything they do and what they do doesn't always have to be something we think is worthwhile. It's part of being in that strange place between child and adult. If fun to them is playing on their phones and hanging at a friends house is supposed to be fun, who am I to take that away from them?

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answers from Chicago on

Uh, I didn't see any rude answers. Just people stating their opinion.

Your house, your rules, but I wouldn't personally do that. I would never confiscate someone else's property, and I would have a problem with a parent taking my kid's phone for any reason.

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answers from Raleigh on

i do not have teens yet , but i think it's a great idea for when my kids are older !!!!!!Some rude responses are OUTRAGEOUS !!!!!! Wow……just wow . A friend just told me her 12 and 13 year old daughters just had a slumber party with 4 other girls …….all 6 girls were on their phones THE WHOLE TIME …..that;s just crazy !!!!I am going to suggest it to her . And if somebody would not let their kids come to your house for the reason you have kids put their phones in a bucket …….well that's just so mature of them ;)

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answers from San Diego on

I wouldn't take phones away from guests at my house. Having a camera on a phone isn't much different than my generation of having an old fashioned film camera. I always had one in my purse and loved to take pictures and didn't always think it through that the film needed to be developed by total strangers. There could have been worse pictures I could have taken, granted, but still they weren't all tame either.
Phones are a part of life now. I don't see an issue with that at all, especially because a phone has become so much more than something to make a call on. My phone is also my calendar book, my address book, my music player, my movie player, and so many other things. As an adult I feel weird if my phone isn't in my pocket because it's now just habit to have it there if I am out anywhere, even in my own front yard. It sits on the table next to me if I'm in the house. I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way.
I do think it's a little rude to go hang out with friends and completely ignore them, opting to play on your phone the whole time. This would be like listening to your Walkman the whole time for my generation. That's just manners though. Not something to be worried about in the since that oh these bad things could happen. I did my share of stupid choices as a teen and I didn't have a cell phone "encouraging" me to act stupidly.
I wouldn't worry about it. If someone shares something extremely stupid, deal with it then. This isn't something I'd personally consider everyone guilty in advance.

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answers from Grand Rapids on

I have not read all of the responses.....in my household the age group is primarily 16-18 year old males. That speaking, the two main rules....don't be doing/saying/texting/pictures anything on your phones/devices, including x box live, that will send the police and no phones when you are at the dinner table eating with me. Plus, I don't want to hear any portion of bullying or raunchy material. If device usage seems extreme, I have been known to ask why they are at my home and that usually prompts the device to be put away or they leave.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Interesting...I haven't felt the need to police the use of phones for my older kids (16 & 15) but our house is small and there's no privacy anyway so I'm not too worried about things happening, but it is something to think about.

For my younger kids (8 & 9) I discourage their friends from bringing phones or any devices over at all and of they do, I take them and put them away and let them know that if they need to make a phone call I'll give them their phone.

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answers from Columbia on

While I'd do similar limits if the kids were under 10 or so, as teens I wouldn't have them leave their phones. Their parents gave them phones to have at all times, and regardless of whether I think they're on them too much or not, I am not their parents. The amount of time they're on them is none of my business.

I do think it's over the top to put them in a bucket in the kitchen. If they need to call or text their parents, they should be able to do so from the phone their parents gave them for that purpose.

That said, if we were eating at the table together, or one of the teens had their face in their phone constantly, I'd kindly ask that they put it in their pocket or purse and enjoy the company of the other folks who are right there. But sending the occasional text or taking some pics to post of Facebook? That's fine.

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answers from Grand Forks on

I don't really see a point to it. If the kids are being rude and using their cell phone at the dining table I might ask them to put it away and explain they are being rude. If they are spending too much time looking at their phones and not interacting, that is really not my place to micro-manage. (I mean, if my kids friend ignores him, my kid will probably just stop inviting him over, right?) If you are worried about them being used "inappropriately", then this is not going to fix that problem. Are you also going to take away iPods, iPads, laptops, computers etc? Then you will find that the kids will find another place to hang out. Personally I like having my kids friends hang out here.

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answers from Houston on

Any one under 10, yes I'd make my home a no cell zone. If they don't like it, stay home.

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answers from Washington DC on

I guess it would depend on the kids and the scenario.
My kid has a cell phone, but doesn't use it much when he is home.

His friend is on it his phone, the whole time he is here. To the point that you wonder why he came over because he doesn't interact with anyone at all. That friend isn't invited over much anymore.

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answers from New York on

The only time I round up phone in a basket is when I have my Girl Scout meetings at my house - if I didn't relieve nine middle school girls of their phones for 90 minutes we would never get ANYTHING done.

Never even considered it for sleepovers or friends hanging out. They love taking goofy pictures and making goofy videos. And I've never had a problem with kids not putting them down.

Last year at my daughter's best friend's birthday party there were two girls who WERE glued to their phones. But part of that was because it was brand new and still a novelty. And the other girls noticed what was going on and called the too-much-phone girls on it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Let me put it this way - I have 3 kids and 2 with cell phones and if this was the rule in a friend's home, they would not be visiting that home after I heard about it. The reasons are this

1) My child is to have access to me 24/7 and me to her

2) We are a Law Enforcement family and many of the phone numbers listed of their "Aunts/Uncles" are also in the same profession and they are not to be shared with others - my girls have these numbers for safety and so they know to pickup if they call

3) If (and God forbid IF) there is an emergency I don't want them to have to search for their phone

4) They use their phones as cameras and such and play together games/etc...

I do not mind though having rules put into place such as no texting/calls after a certain time unless it is to parents/siblings BUT you will NOT be taking my child's phone without MY permission

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Sorry I can't be of help. My kids are only 3, 7 and 8 so no cell phones yet! But I like seeing these types of questions so I know what to start thinking about. I am very sad to see snarky answers from some on several questions. Esp when so many others are super super nice and soooo helpful!!!

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answers from Baton Rouge on

The phone doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the other person. Therefore, they have every right to keep it on them if they so desire. I do not have the right to take it away from them. .

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answers from Chicago on

I don't make my daughters' friend give me her phone. She is really the only one that comes over for a longer time and has one. But I do check what they are doing on it.

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answers from Dallas on

I just think too much is too much. If you're going to your friend's house to 'hang out' say good-night to your parents and turn off the phone! This is the funniest thing I've ever seen....watch it!


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answers from Spokane on

i personally only wouldnt want them at the dinner table and such. some kids arent comfortable asking parents to use the house phone when they have their own. sleep over wise i wouldnt want them on their phones past 10pm. i wouldnt take the phones away because some kids do use it to check in with parents.



answers from Las Vegas on

There are a lot of mixed feelings and all within good reason.

I do like the idea, but it could possible be extreme if it were a check the phone at the door situation. If it is a house rule to turn the phone in at bed time, so be it. But it should be known before coming over.

On the other hand, it is a means of a child to communicate with their parents if they need to. If they are in a bad situation, they should have access to reach out to their parents.

And finally, my daughter has friends who have asked to come over and I don't allow them to. They want to spend the night or the dad suggest that we exchange kids to take a break. I think his girls are misbehaved and would never dream of having them at my house. I guess that is my final decision...if they are not good kids and cannot be trusted, they shouldn't be in your house.

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