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Kids, Parents, and Phones at School?

To Text or Not to Text

My 12-year-old daughter is starting middle school and she just received a phone for her birthday. I have heard some schools have policies about keeping phones out of class or at least in the backpack, but I’m not sure about ours. A mom friend of mine told me she texts her kids during the school day all the time. Is this the norm? Should we come up with some rules for using the phone while she’s at school? 


The use of cell phones in schools is an ongoing debate nationally and can be pretty confusing. In Greater Richmond, most schools allow cell phones in middle school, but require that they are turned off or silenced during class time. Some schools specify times when kids can use their phones, such as at the beginning of school, lunch, or a few minutes before school ends. Even if the school policy is clear, once a child enters the classroom, the teacher rules. Some teachers have kids drop their phones into a shoe bag at the door, some allow them in but confiscate them in a hot second if they are seen or heard, and still others will assign kids an activity to do in class – on their phones. 

Kids will tell you, however, that no matter what the rules are, some students sneak phone-time in whenever and wherever they can. So having a phone at school will be a good test of character for your daughter. If you decide to text her at school (most parents text to check on their kid’s safety or health, or to coordinate schedules), is she mature enough to wait to answer your texts until the appropriate time? Can she choose to follow the rules even if her friends don’t? 

I have three recommendations that will answer your question and also help make your family stronger by connecting better. 

1. Invite your daughter to look up her school’s Code of Conduct with you, on a quest for you both to learn what to expect. You need to know, and so does she. Ask her what she thinks of the rules, and then listen. Does she think they’re realistic? What does she think her friends will do? This will not only give you two a shared activity but may calm her as she’ll be able to talk about the pressure of those first days at school. 

2. Plan with the whole family: What are the rules in your home around technology – for you and your kids? For instance, with the gift of a phone should also come clear expectations. Did you include a cell phone contract with her gift? A family cannot meet expectations and build trust between each other if they don’t know what the expectations are. You can all have fun setting up a media plan online with the great resources available now, including my favorite on from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

3. Model how to fight FOMO (fear of missing out). If you decide it works for you to text her at school, text her only when you know she can answer. And have her hold you accountable, too. Are you texting too often? Are you beginning to hover? (Parents can so easily fall
into this pattern!) Could your message wait until she came home? Or better still, be replaced with a real note in her backpack? 

As with all good coaching, I offer the ideas, but you decide what fits your family and your parenting goals. I hope this helps. 

Susan Townsend Holt, M.Ed, is a board-certified family life coach, parent educator with Everyday Parenting Solutions, and director of family ministry for Community West Church. She specializes in social/emotional skills for calmer and healthier families and classrooms. She is blessed with her husband of thirty-seven years and two adult daughters.
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