Responsible Wireless Use - A Guide for Parents

Wireless technologies offer numerous benefits for kids and parents, including education, health management and entertainment. While the newest devices, apps and content typically receive the most attention, wireless services and devices are public safety tools. Parents and kids have peace-of-mind knowing that help is only a phone call away. At the same time, kids may be so excited about all the other benefits wireless services and devices offer that they don’t realize there may be financial and behavioral costs associated with its use.

To ensure that kids use wireless technology responsibly, parents and kids must set their family’s rules and expectations. CTIA and its members have developed a family rules template to help start the conversation. It’s okay if kids already have a cellphone because parents and kids can create or modify their family rules at any time. In fact, CTIA recommends that parents and kids have a discussion about appropriate wireless use at the beginning of each school or calendar year. By setting out what’s appropriate and inappropriate, kids will know their parents’ expectations when they use wireless technology. 

As kids use wireless technology, it’s vital they know their family’s rules on Dollars and Sense. The amount of service needed or what was acceptable wireless usage for an 11-year-old may differ when the kid turns 12.

In addition to setting the family rules, here are a few tips to help parents find the right wireless services for their families and teach their kids how to use wireless responsibly:


The wireless industry offers a variety of tools, services and features to help parents manage their kids’ wireless usage. To more effectively use these tools, parents should look for:

  • A wireless provider’s plans, policies and service offerings for voice, data and texts

    Choosing the right service plan can help limit unsolicited calls or texts and inappropriate downloads, content or purchases.

  • A wireless provider’s parental control tools

    Using these tools, parents should choose the phone functions and service capabilities (e.g., contacts, downloads, applications, location based services, etc.) available on kids’ wireless devices.

  • A wireless handset's built in parental management and safety features

    Using these tools, parents should manage and password protect kids’ use of the Internet, camera, music, video, games and applications, including in-app purchases.


It is essential that parents and kids keep an open dialogue about wireless service and device usage. To help parents start the conversation, CTIA and its member companies recommend using the family rules template, which uses the five W’s of wireless safety—who, what, when, where and why:

  • Who can kids contact?

  • What can kids "do" with their wireless devices?

  • When can kids use their wireless devices?

    • Use parental control features to set out the times when kids can use wireless services or devices between certain hours, such as during school, before homework time is done or after bedtime.

  • Where can kids use their wireless devices?

    • CTIA and its members believe that no one, regardless of age, should ever text while driving and many state and local governments are banning such activity. 

    • CTIA and the National Safety Council developed the "On the Road, Off the Phone" campaign to remind kids that when they're on the road, they are off the phone.

    • Use parental control features and location based services to set other locations (e.g., religious buildings, schools, libraries, etc.) that kids should not use their devices.

  • Why does this matter?

Additional Resources

  • Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization which rates and reviews movies, TV shows, songs, books, video games, wireless applications and websites according to developmental criteria recommendations from some of the nation's leading authorities.
  • CTIA Initiatives to help parents manage the way kids use wireless devices and services, including CTIA’s Guidelines for Content Classification and Internet Access, CTIA Mobile Application Rating System with ESRB and Location Based Services (LBS) Best Practices and Guidelines.
  • CTIA S-A-F-E-T-Y Tipsto help parents and kids set expectations about wireless use.
  • Connect Safely provides information on how to use the web and social network spaces safely.
  • FCC Parent’s Place provides information about how to improve your children's safety in today's complex media landscape, and what the FCC is doing to help.
  • iKeepSafe is a 501(c)3 nonprofit international alliance of more than 100 policy leaders, educators, law enforcement members, technology experts, public health experts and advocates. iKeepSafe offers information on how to educate your children in using their cell phones smart and safely through programs such as Cell Phone Smart.
  • OnGuardOnline: Your Safety Net Net Cetera is a coalition of federal government agencies and the tech industry that created Net Cetera, an online safety guidebook for parents to help communicate with their children about using their mobile phones safely and responsibly.
  • The Wireless Foundation offers an innovative game app called “BeSeen” to raise cyber awareness and digital literacy in kids before they face the risks of cyberbullying, identity theft and privacy invasion and to guide them towards being responsible online citizens. “BeSeen” is available for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.