Taking Your Teenagers Cell Phone Away

Warning!! There will be no soft parenting advice here. The truth is that YOU grew up just fine without a cell phone – in fact, you never needed one – and the reality is your child doesn’t NEED one either. As a tool of discipline, taking your teenagers cell phone away can be one of the best ways to well… discipline your child. Recent research has shown that teens today feel real separation anxiety symptoms when they are without their cell phones. And laws today, which fight for both sides of the ‘should cell phones be allowed at school,’ debate, are quite frankly ridiculous and only seem to encourage the elitist entitled attitude of young people today.

Okay, “So the times they are a changing.” Thank you Bob Dylan for filling us in. And yes, technology is part of today and a massive part of our future. But that doesn’t mean that a teenager – who is in the midst of development and life exploration – necessarily HAS to have a cell phone to survive. Look at some of this research about teens and cell phones that comes from the Pew Internet and American Life Research Project.

  • Texting (rather than talking) has become the ‘preferred’ method of communication for teens and their social peers.
  • 75% of children ages 12 – 17 own cell phones.
  • Less than 25% of teens actually talk to their friends outside of school using any method aside from a cell phone.
  • One in three teens sends MORE than 100 text messages per day. (When pray tell do they have the time for this)
  • 51% of teens 12-17 admit to sending or receiving sexually explicit text messages.
  • The number one reason that teens desire cell phones is for social interaction. (What happened to playgrounds, going over to friend’s houses after school?)
  • 69% of teens say that their phone is their MAIN source of entertainment.
  • 78% of teens say that they have used their cell phone during school – even though it is against the rules.
  • 91% of all teens say that their parents are responsible for paying for their cell phone.

(Insert sounds of screeching brakes). Did you just see that last statistic?

Parents are the ones financially responsible for cell phones. Parents are the ones that incur millions of dollars worth of overages each and every year (According to Verizon wireless) due to their teens misuse and irresponsibility utilizing cell phones. One in every 4 teens is added to their parent’s cell plan by the age of 12 in the United States alone. This is a huge financial expense for parents each and every month, one that is essentially unnecessary. Even though parents today feel happy and warm knowing their child has a cell phone and they can be reached at any time – teens today are outsmarting parents when it comes to the capabilities that cell phones offer. Such as GPS, and online gaming, and social networking, and often – becoming involved in illegal activities through the cell phone.

The bottom line is this. If your teen has a cell phone, they likely feel a very close and personal relationship with the device. So when grades drop, when they back talk you, when they fail to be responsible or respectful, or don’t meet any other expectation that you have of them – taking it away from them, indefinitely – is a parents best line of defense. To a teen, the cell phone is like a drug. Addictive and soothing. What they often fail to realize is that this ‘drug of choice,’ so to speak is also a privilege. Teens are NOT entitled to a cell phone. And even if they work hard and pay for all or part of the bill themselves, parents have the right and RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that the cell phone is not a life distraction. Which far too often in life today, it most certainly is – especially for teens.

Additionally, be prepared for the whole, “You are ruining my life,” “I hate you,” “How can you do this to me,” “My boy/girl friend will break up with me if I cannot text,” melodrama that they are sure to spout your way when you take the cell phone away. Your children may truly feel in that moment that their life is over. The truth is that their life as they know it is being changed a little bit, which can be uncomfortable. But based on their dependence – it likely needs to happen. Remember, you got along just fine with Facebook or a cell phone. And your teen will too. Plus, Dr. Phil is always reminding parents to find their child’s currency. To find that one thing that is important to them and to use it as a discipline tool so that they can truly be afforded the opportunity to realize consequences of action. Well Mom and Dad – you know what it is. Their cell phone. And it is certainly in your best interest to use that currency as necessary. (Plus, you PAY FOR IT, which essentially means it is yours)

Parents today are constantly complaining about how much time their teens spend on technology. Kids are spending more time Facebooking and texting than they are studying and working. And this, is a parenting problem. If you don’t like them taking texts during dinner – take the phone away. In other words, realize that you have all the tools necessary to curb this behavior and to put an end to it should the need arise. Sure, you want your kids to be accessible and to be afforded the same niceties in life that their friends have. Yet, at the same time – they too have to show some personal integrity before expensive life ornaments such as cell phones are handed over blindly.



35 Responses

  1. not all parents buy and pay for the cell phone… I’m 17, I bought my iPhone at 15 when I had a job and could pay for it. I still pay my phone bill. So why is it right for my parents to take away something I pay for on a monthly basis. But not only do they take my phone, they go in and they read all of my texts and twitter messages, they completely invade my privacy.

    1. Your parents are your legal guardians. Usually that means they can do anything related to you short of breaking the law.

  2. Teenagers back then didn’t need a phone because it was too expensive for their parents to buy every single child one. They didn’t need a phone because the parents worked all day and the only rule was to be home before sundown. Also, the kidnapping and rape percentages were a lot lower than they are today. I will agree that teenager are obsessively close with their phones but that is only because that is where all of our privacy lays. Your privacy was in a journal, which your bully could take and copy and show to everyone. If ours is on our phones, then it can be more protected from a lot more people because of passwords. Sure, the geniuses that hack into phones can unlock the phone and retrieve whatever they want on it, but the people smart enough to do that, don’t want to be bothered as to what’s on Betty’s phone.
    “(What happened to playgrounds, going over to friend’s houses after school?)” We still do that, thank you for acknowledging that all humans from 12-17 are depressed vampires who hate people. Teenagers having phones allows us to be more accessible to where our friends our so that we could meet up with them (ON A PLAYGROUND WOW). And duh 91% of teens say their parents pay for phones, we’re broke!! Don’t you remember when you were in high school and college, having a part-time or full-time job to help pay off debt? Most teenagers have some sort of way of earning money, whether it be from their parents or a neighbor, they still don’t earn a sufficient amount of money to pay for their own phone. Parents know that their kid has no money, that’s where an allowance comes in. (OMG no way???)
    Along with the privacy thing too, unless you have a suspicion of your kid doing drugs or being in a gang and robbing people, leave their privacy alone. If you snoop on your kid and look at what they are texting their friends, why? What purpose does it give to you? Are you really that bored with your life that you need to know the latest drama happening between a boy your daughter secretly likes and his current girlfriend? Wow. Congratulations, you have reached a new low in my book. Leave the kid alone, Peaking on their privacy makes them not want to trust their parents which creates an even bigger strain on the relationship.

  3. Hmm if only u realized taking away a child’s phone will drive a wedge between u and them. More and more anytime u take it

  4. Hmm if only u realized taking away a child’s phone will drive a wedge between u and them. More and more anytime u take it and also that is how they get in touch with there friends so if they get sad and need to talk to someone their first response will be texting a friend.. if they don’t have that person to vent to and really don’t want to talk to u as most teenagers do not want to talk to their parents they will resort to other options of coping which will be worse then a little cell phone I can promise u that

  5. Danielle:
    “Also, the kidnapping and rape percentages were a lot lower than they are today.”
    FBI crime statistics report: Rapes 1984: 35.6 per 100,000
    2014: 26.4 per 100,000
    You are a low-information whiner. Stop trying to justify why adults are responsible for your pleasure. Knowledge is power.

  6. Take away the phone , they learn their lessons the hard ways … cell phones are privileges not a priority, when they misuse it , take it away

    1. and what if the crime has nothing to do with the punishment? for misusing a cellphone taking it is appropriate, but for sibling rivalry or a lie it is uneccisary and you will drive a wedge between you and the teen, growing up you didnt need a cell phone because your only rule was to be home before the sun went down, also if you buy your teen a cell phone, you are permitting them to use it. we use cell phones as a way to keep in touch with our friends and family etc. you didnt need a phone when you were a teen, you had a diary to store all of your thoughts, we have our cell phones, when parents take away a teens phone they are taking away part of that teen, for many of us taking away the phone also means searching it, how did you feel when your parents read your diary? like you dont have any privacy? did you actually care what you did to have them read it or did you only care about them reading it? exactly. when parents take away teens phones it doesnt make them sorry about what they did the only thing they are focusing on is the fact they lost their phone, we dont care about why. and a forced apology is not the same as a meaningful one, if you force your teen to say sorry after u take their phone, trust me theyre sorry but not about what they did, they just want their phone back. teens need privacy, and their phone is usually the only way they get that. teens and children are not the same, if the kid is 14 or younger go through it to keep them safe, mayeb even 15 depending on maturity but 16+ give them space. they dont go through your phone to make sure you arent doing anything bad.

  7. bullllshite , I have my own phone that my parents didn’t pay for and they still took it , its stupid I paid for it , its mine

  8. I completely agree with Danielle and Marie, here. As a “good kid”, I was completely disturbed when my parents (quite literally) snatched my phone from my hands and looked through all of my messages, social media, and history right in front of me. Of course I had done nothing wrong and they were just curious, but just the idea that they had access to my “digital diary”, as I’ll call it, was mortifying. Sadly, I’m going to have to put up with it until I move out next year. However, when I have kids in the distant future, as long as they give me no reason to distrust them, I would NEVER do this. I honestly felt so naked and hurt that first time.

  9. As a “good kid”, I was completely disturbed when my parents (quite literally) snatched my phone from my hands and looked through all of my messages, social media, and history right in front of me. Of course I had done nothing wrong and they were just curious, but just the idea that they had access to my “digital diary”, as I’ll call it, was mortifying. Sadly, I’m going to have to put up with it until I move out next year. However, when I have kids in the distant future, as long as they give me no reason to distrust them, I would NEVER do this. I honestly felt so naked and hurt that first time.

  10. The thing about this is yeah teens did just fine back in the day without a phone but ask yourself this, if all of your friends had a cell phone and were always posting and texting each other but you didn’t have a phone wouldn’t you feel left out. I really only use my phone for snapchat and texting my mom and dad i dont even go on instagram and facebook but whenever it gets taken away I feel so left out because everyone else has a phone. Its not that I can’t live without my phone its that all my friends are texting and playing on their phones and I’m just sitting there with nothing today. If we lived in a society where there wasn’t as many kids with phones I wouldn’t mind not having one but people tend to overlook this.

    1. First, you teach your kids to be independent thinkers with their own opinions, to decide what they think is cool and popular, and not do or be something just because all of the other kids have it or thinks it’s cool, and to be self-confident and not be ‘hive-minded’ as with most kids nowadays. We had 6 kids that we taught these values to and today they are all successful professionals with kids of their own and they have taught their kids the same values. None of them have ever experienced ‘FOMO’ or separation anxiety if they don’t have their phones connected at their hips. There is a baseline of parental behavior that should span across generations, no matter the times or behaviors. I believe in taking phones away as a consequence to bad behavior…no matter the crime.

        1. When I hear that the kids will suffer ‘separation anxiety…FOMO’, if you take their phones away, I think….seriously?! Maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t be suffering from these behaviors, if they didn’t see parents have their phones connected at their hips. It’s called ‘setting an example’. This seems to have disappeared once tech was introduced to their young lives. Now, these devices serve as a baby sitter for the most part. I have asked some family members why they give their kids ‘tech’ at such a young age. Their response is usually ‘what am I supposed to do, all of their friends have them’. Teach them not to conform so much but instill some confidence in them at an early age. It’s so simple(even though parenting is the hardest job in the world). These devices compel such rude behavior from the present generation. I honestly think that they would know it the sky turned purple…because they are looking down so much. Accidenti!!!!

  11. Honestly, Stef Daniel, I hate to be vulgar but your advice on this is complete bullshit. There have been studies that show taking away a phone as punishment for something unrelated to the phone makes the issue significantly worse. This breaks the trust of the child, and can ruin parent-child relationships. Children who’s phones are taken away and searched through loose all trust in their parents, often leading to lying and sneakiness. Miss, it would behoove you to do your research before telling parents to snatch kid’s phones. You said it yourself, there is real separation anxiety involved. Taking the phone will get their attention, but for the wrong reason. The best thing you can do sit down and talk with your kids about the issue. It’s the bond with your child or the phone.

  12. this article is literally msnformed and bull. you are giving more parents justification to take part in this act of bad parenting.

  13. as a parent i think that this article is complete bullsh*t when i tried this it just drove a wedge in our relationship and i have a thing that looks for key words like: porn and other stuff like that and thats all u need. punish them with chores.

  14. i always get my phone taking i was wondering if i would ever get it back. It’s been 6 months since i talked to my friends. The last time i talked to them was on google meet with the teachers. If anyone has advice to help me get my phone back. I would like advice to keep it to that wood be nice also help.

    1. im in the same boat too rn. my parents took my phone a month ago due to ‘bad grades’ that wasn’t my fault. i have really awful teachers that don’t care about teaching or actually doing their job and some of them are anti-lgbtq+ which makes them give us lower scores even if we answered all the questions correctly. sorry, went on a slight rant. im just mad at my parents backing up my teachers and taking my phone when all my friends live hours away from me. parents really said “no social life for you”, am i right? anyways i hope you got you’re phone back since it’s been two years now. i hate the thought of being isolated that long.

  15. Especially now in a time of distress where no one can talk to another without a phone it is mean to do it. If I took away my parents phones, they would be furious. They would say that they have things to do on it, the same way we kids have things to do on our phones and computers.

  16. this article is complete bull, I am a 16 year old girl and going to be honest here. do not punish us for something that has nothing to do with what we did. my phone got taken away for something that had nothing to do with my phone. let me explain. my cousin died so my grandma went to texas to go to the funeral and didnt take me (already right there i felt left out because i wanted to go and theyve gone out of state for 3 funerals without me) my stepgrandpa has to work and i had to watch the dogs. i hadnt got any sleep from previous night so i was up when he went to work (5:30am) i fed the dogs and cats, let them out, cleaned the litter box etc, i set an alarm on my phone to wake me up in a few hour so i could let them out again, i took a nap in that time because i was tired and couldnt stay awake, i guess i had missed his call in that time checking to make sure everything was okay, he called back a 2nd time and i answered, he asked if i was asleep and i told him no out of fear because i knew i would get in trouble (even if i told him the truth we wouldve taken my phone, didnt wanna deal with it and it was either get yelled at or get yelled at later and i chose to get yelled at later) he took my phone for that, i havent been able to talk to my mom (who just had twins a couple months ago and currently has covid) havent talked to my friends in 2 weeks so ive had nothing to do but play my game and chores, and i get bitched at for that too. even though there is nothing on my phone they still search it and i feel vulnerable. they think taking it is effective but i would do it again because i dont want to get yelled at, hasnt changed anything other than now i dont trust him more. and now when i move out it wont be a sad time, theyll be crying but i will be eager to leave, he wont give me my phone back until i apologize but i will not do that as it makes me feel vulnerable, and even if i do, it isnt because of the lie. its because i want my phone back lol. dont punish me for a crime i didnt commit. when you take away a teens phone it damages trust between u and us. and the problem will not resolve. instead punish with like, chores or something idk.

  17. maybe, instead of punishing your child like this and interpreting their whines as “melodrama,” actually talk to your child? for me my phone is really important to me. and it’s not because i’m “emotionally attached to my phone” it’s that my phone is my only coping mechanism these days. when my parents take it away, i almost always spiral into a depressive episodes. fun times. it’s not even this generation’s teenagers see their mental health declining at an alarming rate, it’s that taking away your children’s phone when it’s almost unrelated to what they did creates trust problems, drives a wedge in your relationships, and almost always does nothing to fix the actual issue at hand.

  18. It’s really quite interesting to read the comments and realize that all the teens have extremely poor writing skills. Whereas all the adults correctly use capital letters, spelling, and punctuation. This speaks volumes to me in terms of their education suffering due to a lack of focus in school, likely because they are always in their cell phones!

  19. nope they just don’t have the energy to deal with writing with correct grammar if it isn’t needed. also i’m 17, in all ap classes, band, and have a job. our phones have nothing to do with it, it’s having no energy, long school days, hours of homework after that, and then having to work because we need all the money we can get so be somewhat financially stable for the next few years after high school. also our education is suffering from horrid teachers, a messed up school system, and whatever may be happening at home, along with mental health issues and, for some of us, fearing for our lives because of who we are. just stop blaming the phones and actually learn from credible resources that can be backed up, please. that’s all i ask of you.

    1. Dear Michele, I am not sure why you are inserting yourself into this conversation. You, clearly, are not in the category of teens that find it difficult to manage their time because it is easier and maybe more entertaining to have all their focus on a 3 1/2 by 5 inch screen hours on end. The issue here is what should parents do when what started out as a good idea is now disabling our children. I purchased a phone for my daughter and pay the monthly expense so my child has a way to reach me when needed; but, it is now consuming her every waking moment. She is nearly 17 and I have very serious concerns. I am not accustomed to seeing teens, and now adults, with their heads down, thumbs scrolling when they are on the job, whether it be house keeping, waiting tables, land scraping, in a security role, etc. The phone goes into their pocket, but, in a moment, it is back out again and the whole thing is repeated. Heads up, everyone! There is incoming and it is called life as well as all the physical damage from having the cervical spine constantly bent in this position and the eyes fixed on a screen. The message to our teens is that, unless the adult can no longer support the monthly fee for them to have it, they don’t need to give up their phones. Just consider managing it better instead of allowing it to manage you.

  20. It is the cellphones, the internet, the Xbox and so on, perhaps not all kids have the same outcome.
    I grew up without a cellphone and so I entertained myself with reading a book, watching a tv show and taught myself typing of which I perfected when I attended college. I still talked to my friends, from my parent’s home phone line. There was no sharing of explicit images and the calls ended by bedtime.

    Today my son, who is 16 years old, meet a girl online. He is infatuated with her. They message all day long. They haven’t met, apparently the girl lives in California. We live in Florida. She messages him at 6:00 am every morning, that is 3:00 am in California. He is failing 10th grade; I’m having to constantly ask him if he has completed his schoolwork. At this stage, I think he should be responsible over his assignments. As punishment and because having a cellphone is a privilege, I’ve taken the phone away and he goes into a deep depression, crying for hours. He told this girl, he hates me. I know because I’ve read some of the messages. When a child does not honor this mother or father, something went wrong along the way. I’m a divorced mom and work full time. Their dad picks them up every other weekend, in my opinion it’s not sufficient time spent with his sons, but this is how he wanted it. I do believe the divorce affected the kids, especially the older one. I pray my son will one day have self-love, focus on his career and where he wants to go in life because talking to this girl online goes nowhere. Nothing but a dead end. I hope one day he understands, I only wanted the best for him.

  21. This is completely wrong. I am a 16-year-old female, and I haven’t had a phone in years. I was in a quarantine for a whole year and had no way of talking to anybody, and now I can’t even talk to a waiter. I would go to school before and after the pandemic and get bullied because I didn’t have one. Bullying has nothing to do with being online, it has to do with as*hole kids that have no good parenting. I was sexually assaulted and thank god I had a phone then, if I didn’t, I’d probably be dead. And I don’t understand the whole “you didn’t need them so your kids don’t”, you do realize everything is online right? And you do realize that kids NEED to reach their parents if something happens.
    I love how you say kids can’t pay for it so they don’t need it. I’VE BEEN REJECTED FROM COUNTLESS JOBS FOR NOT HAVING A CELL PHONE. So, I ask you to stop blaming everything on cell phones. Kids are going to do stupid things with or without it. It’s called brain development.

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