Counseling for Alcohol and Drug Abuse


Put Down the Phone! - practical suggestions for parents struggling with their teen's phone usage.

Parenting in the age of smart phones is truly a significant modern parenting problem.  Our phones are addictive, and even more so for an undeveloped adolescent brain. It is easy to become lost in the world of texting, apps, videos and social media.  So what can a parent do?

Here are a few suggestions for parents who find themselves in this common disagreement with their teenager.

  1. Set Clear Guidelines.   I sometimes hear from parents that their teen is on their phone “too much.”  But the teenager and the parent are at odds about what too much really is. To make it more objective,  let your teenager know what the expectation is about the amount of time spent on their phone per day. This will likely involve some reflection on your end as to what is a reasonable amount of time.

  2. Help them explore alternatives.  Notice what they spend a lot of their time doing.  Is it games, texting, social media, or something else?  If they are getting social needs met, perhaps they can do that in another way on occasion.  If they are playing games, maybe they can play an old fashioned board game! If they are creating videos, could there be other ways they can use their creativity as well?  

  3. Be understanding, but firm.  It can be hard for the kid that has stricter parents than their friends.  They might always have that one (or more) friend that has no rules around their phone.  You can empathize that it can be frustrating when your friends get to do things that they themselves can’t, while still maintaining that as a parents you sometimes have to make rules they don’t like or don’t understand.  Explain the problems that too much phone usage can cause (everything from eye damage, to sleep issues, to low self esteem etc.)

  4. Don’t expect them to agree with you, or to like all your decisions.  Part of being a teenager is rebelling against what your parents think and feel.  Stick to your guns. You can be both firm and kind. Do NOT constantly debate the issue, but also be flexible about adapting the rules as they grow older and/or more responsible.

  5. There are apps for monitoring and/or managing your teenagers phone use.  Consider exploring these.  Also, you are able to do this directly on many phones, through the setting  “screen time.”

  6. Be a good role model!  Teenagers will take you more seriously if you are not on your phone constantly as well.  Look for opportunities to explore new hobbies, engage in conversation with friends, go outside to exercise or get fresh air, and your children will take notice.  

  7. Consider taking the phone at night.  If the phone stays in the room with parents at night, then there is no temptation to stay up all night on instagram, or texting their boyfriend or girlfriend.  Even the most responsible kids can struggle with this at night, so sometimes it’s easier for them to not have the option to use their phone at midnight. If the phone is used as an alarm, buy a new alarm.  If they listen to music on it, find an alternative so they can still play music at night.

Laura NovakComment