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.