Things to Consider Before Taking Your Teen’s Phone Away as Punishment

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Almost all American teenagers have a cellphone. For many, it is a lifeline—a way to connect with friends, family, and the outside world. So, when parents consider taking away a teen’s phone as punishment, they should think about the potential consequences. Taking away a phone can cause feelings of isolation and anxiety, and may do more harm than good.

My students, of course, make the claim that it is neither fair nor effective, just mean. In this article I was surprised to discover the science supporting the notion that they may be right and how we, as adults, can “teach the lesson” in a better way.  

Things to Consider Before Taking Your Teen’s Phone Away as Punishment

author: Marybeth Bock & Nancy Reynolds
Our teen’s cell phone…

It’s typically the first thing they reach for when they wake up in the morning and the last thing they glance at before drifting off to sleep at night.

And, according to studies, the average teen is tethered to their phone throughout the day as well, spending a whopping seven (or more) hours per day on their cell phone talking, texting, scrolling and searching. If you’re feeling frustrated (or even downright angry) that your teen seems addicted to their phone, that they never look up long enough to have a decent conversation or that, in some ways, their phone is interfering with their responsibilities at home, at school or in life, in general, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s a huge source of frustration and tension for a lot of parents.

So, when your teen blows off taking out the garbage after you’ve asked them three times because they’re too busy scrolling through TikTok videos or they failed a big test because they got lost scrolling through Instagram instead of studying, it’s only natural to want to take their phone away. 

After all, we want the punishment we’re doling out to really sink in, and what better way is there to “hit them where it hurts” than by confiscating the one thing that you know is going to be a huge deal to them. Some parents even call the consequence of taking their teen’s phone away, the “nuclear option.” 

However, according to some experts, parents need to consider the impact taking their teen’s phone away has not only on their teen but also on the relationship they have with their teen. 

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