Many parents shudder at the thought. Some even experience a shortness or breath and heart palpitations when they imagine what might really happen if they took their teenager’s phone away as a consequence for poor choices.
When you consider a teen’s sheer dependency on their phone for a social and emotional connection to their peers, the thought of voluntarily taking it from them makes about as much sense as putting your hand in a lion’s cage to grab a piece of raw meat.
It’s scary, potentially hazardous, and might even seem impossible to consider.
But don’t stress—it doesn’t have to be any of those things.
When we recently took our teen’s phone away we learned some very valuable lessons, the first being that life goes on, your teen does not self-destruct, and taking away valued technology really can influence behavior.
But (and there’s always a ‘but’) there are pros and cons to this feared parenting maneuver you may want to consider. Oh, and a disclaimer: Every family dynamic is different so method and results will vary.
Verbal communication increases. Take away texting and social media from a teen and what do you get? You get a teen that talks and connects more with you and the whole family. All jesting aside, this sudden shift for us was a very positive change.
You get to know his friends. Without a phone your teen will start using his friends’ phones to contact you. Now, when he calls, you can easily add his friends’ numbers to your contact list (friends you knew of and those you did not know). Getting to know your teens’ friends better is a fun and informative.
Family bond grows. With the phone gone, you may find a “yes” to invitations to family excursions where once there was a “naw, no thanks.” Minus 24/7 access to a phone, they will miss out on opportunities to hang with friends, play games on their phone or cruise social media sites. We noticed the quality of our time together improved; there was more laughing and connection between our teen and us as well as between siblings.
Attitude shift. When a cell phone goes away, a teen is abruptly reminded that a phone is a privilege not a right. And if they aren’t paying the bill, which is usally the case, they will likely begin to appreciate their technology—at least for a while.
You can’t find your kid. That’s right. You will experience your own jolt when you notice how dependent you have become to your teen having a cell phone. Taking his phone will be a big inconvienience and play with your peace of mind when you need to confirm his whereabouts, safety at home, or connecting in an emergency.
They will get to technology. Teens are like hunting dogs when it comes to technology. They will find—or rig—other ways to communicate. Their friends will offer them old phones, they will jump on ichat on a PC or reconfigure other gadgets to talk with friends. This makes your “big” move to take his phone more of a minor inconvience. They may even rely on other siblings’ phones to communicate with their friends.
It will cost you: time, money, and stress. Kids now rely on their phones for other things like alarm clocks, we realized. They will also “have” to check their email or Facebook mail on your phone to communicate with teachers or bosses if they work. You will also find yourself as a conduit between your teen and their boss or teachers, which can be stressful.
The bottom line? Think long and hard before you take a phone away as a consequence—but don’t be afraid to do it. They will kick. They will scream. But they will survive (and so will you). And everyone will gain a little more respect for the gift of technology—and think twice when it comes to losing it.