Script: Talking through Technology Boundaries

Prior to this conversation, we suggest accessing our Social Media & Mobile Phone Contract. This will equip you with knowledge and skills to set technology boundaries in place. Empower your tween to develop a sense of what it means to be a responsible users of technology. It is important to not hold your tween’s phone or privileges over them in an attempt to give you more power in the relationship, but at the same time, your tween needs to be fully aware of the expectations of owning a device. Start your discussion with a clarifying statement: “You are old enough now and you have shown us that you can be trusted, so we have decided to give you a phone to use.”

“What do you mean by a ‘phone to use’?”

Provide some framework for your tween’s phone privileges and adjust the conversation to suit your pre-determined parameters: “This phone is going to be considered our family’s phone that you are using – just like your brother is using our family car. We are paying all of the fees related to your use of the phone and in return, we are trusting that you will take care of the phone, respect our rules when using it, and that you understand if a phone isn’t fun, you have to stop and ask why.”

“Why wouldn’t I have fun?”

Create the opportunity to mention some of the harms if misusing technology, while keeping the conversation focused on successfully managing those risks: “Sometimes having a phone can cause a lot of stress, anxiety and depression. I would like us to have some rules for using the phone so that you are less likely to get these feelings. How about we come up with the rules together?”

“What kind of rules?”

Start by empathizing with your tween’s need for privacy and control: “It’s important to decide together on limits for how much you are using the phone, what apps you will put on the phone, and how you can use it in a way that’s safe for yourself and others.” Allow your tween to make suggestions first. Listen and discuss each suggestion with your tween to reach an agreement. Use the information provided with the Culture Reframed Social Media & Mobile Phone Contract to guide your discussion.

Some of the points outlined in the contract, may sound like this when discussed:

“I’m not sure, I definitely want my social media apps, YouTube, and some games.”

“OK. Could we agree that before you download an app that you check with me?”


“What are some of your suggestions for situations that you wouldn’t use your phone?”


Reflect their response and add any additional rules you would like to suggest. “That is a good idea for all of us. How else could we prioritize technology balance in our family?”  

Provide your tween an opportunity to think of what other activities are important for healthy living, and suggest some from the Social Media & Mobile Phone Contract.

I also want a stopping time at night when phones are not going to be used.”

“What! Everyone talks to each other at night.”

Calmly affirm why this is an important rule and offer a fair solution: “This is a deal breaker for me. Night time is when a lot of bullying happens, apps have more adult content pop-up, and using your phone at night can affect your sleep. I’m open to discuss a stopping time that seems reasonable for both of us, and we can all follow this rule as a family.”

“What about 10pm?”

“That is too late, you have to get up at 6am for school and it’s important for your brain to have some unwind time before bed. I was going to say 8pm, how about we compromise and make it 9pm?”

“I guess that works.”

“Great!  Can we also talk about the drama that can come with using a mobile phone? If someone is causing drama for you, or does something like send you a sexual message or nude, we want you to come to us right away. We promise to listen and not overreact or judge you. We love you and want you to be safe.”

“I’m not too worried about that.”

Alleviate any concern of accusation, and aim to make your tween feel at ease to speak with you about anything that could arise in the future: “I’m not saying it is going to happen to you, and at the same time, this is really common. Bullying feels bad, getting a nude or sexual message can be embarrassing, and can be even more complicated because sexual images of anyone under the age of 18 is illegal and considered to be child pornography (also known as child sexual exploitation material). If it happens to you, you may feel ashamed or afraid to tell us. I know there isn’t always something that can be done about it, just having us to talk through it can help you feel better.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.”

Cover other aspects within the Social Media & Mobile Phone Contract. End the discussion with a summary that reflects the rules you and your tween have agreed to, adapting the written agreement provided by Culture Reframed. “I think we are ready to get the phone. I just want to confirm the rules we have agreed upon. Do you have any ideas for how we are going to navigate situations where these rules haven’t been followed?”

Have an open discussion with your tween.

Ask for confirmation from your tween on reasonable penalties, give them reassurance you are there to support them, and that you will respond calmly if something goes wrong. Congratulate them for approaching their new responsibility with such maturity.

responding to resistance from tweens

What if your tween strongly objects? Here are some ways to respond to common arguments.

“Why isn’t this just my phone?”

“Having a phone is a big responsibility. We think you are ready to handle it, but we need to be sure there are rules around using it that we both agree to.”

“I should be able to use the phone any way I want to.”

“That may come with time. Right now, we need to have rules. I could just decide the rules for you. I’m trying to respect you by giving you the chance to figure out the rules with me. Could we agree to talk about them together?”

“What! I’m not a baby, I know what apps are good and which ones aren’t.”

Provide an affirmation to decrease your tween’s resistance. Follow it up with a reflection that helps them understand your motivations for this rule “I know you are capable of making good decisions. This whole area is new to me, and I just want to know what apps you are interested in.”

“I don’t want a time to hand in my phone at night!”

“If we can’t agree on a time to stop using your phone at night, you are choosing not to have a phone right now.”

“Are you serious?!”

“Yes. This is important to me. We can start with a specific stopping time, then continue to talk about it as you show me you are using the phone responsibly.”