Teen Smart-Phone Usage as a Privilege, Not a Right: Establishing Sensible Restrictions


One thing that becomes very clear when listening to Lauren Muriello, LPC of Well Being Therapy Center, talk about the use of technology is the importance for parents to be very clear with their teens about their rules for cell phone use.

There is no vagueness in what she has to say. You set rules for your child before you give them a phone, and then if your teen breaks those rules, there are reasonable consequences.

It makes sense, but I imagine plenty of parents are not completely clear with their children about exactly what they expect from them before they give them a phone. This makes it more difficult to take it away when your child does something irresponsible.

Consequences need to be short. We need to give our teenagers the understanding that they did something wrong and their behavior needs to improve, but then we need to give them a chance to do it right. -Lauren Murriello Click To Tweet

How long should you take your child’s phone away as a consequence?

Teenagers may think they can’t live without their cell phones, but I can tell you from experience that they can not only live without them but that there are plenty of benefits from them being away from their phones for a while, including the chance to focus on schoolwork, talk to the people next to them, and even relax in ways they may not have in a long time.

Lauren says we should not take away a teen’s phone for months. She thinks that would be excessive. The goal of taking away your teen’s phone for a day or two is to give them a chance to do it right and to be responsible.

Consequences versus punishment

I think this is the real takeaway. The end game is to teach, but we need to give our kids the space to get it right, to do it again, and make better decisions.

We can help build self-esteem and closer relationships by disciplining our kids. The discipline is not punitive. The consequences are logical, and they are reasonable.

When we lay down consequences as parents, we need to keep sight of the higher intention, which is to teach our kids not only to respect the rules but that they have the power to get them right. This is very different than a punishment made out of anger.

If you’re interested in learning more about the difference between punishment and consequences, you might find this punishment vs. consequences article helpful.

“Parenting and Digital Technology” Video Series

I do hope you get a chance to watch the video above and opt in for the whole series. I think there are some good takeaways sprinkled throughout. If you missed the opt-in form at the end of the video, here it is again.

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Adam Simon, Odyssey Teen Camp Director

Adam Simon

I'm Adam Simon. I started teen camp eighteen years ago with the vision of creating a space where teenagers would know they are safe from bullying or negative judgments and would feel free to show who they really are and to become their best selves. Let's connect, discuss, and engage...
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