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Phones in Bedrooms: Set Limits and Enforce Them

Parenting teenagers in the age of technology has introduced a whole new set of situations to manage. As parents, we try to make our rules around electronics clear and base it on the expert advice that encourages parents of teenagers to set a “bedtime” for electronics.

One family shared the story of how they created an electronic contract with the help of a family therapist that reflected compromise from both themselves and their daughter. They all agreed and signed the contract regarding electronic time limits.

Nevertheless, their daughter immediately put a spin on the contract. Under the agreement, she was to hand over electronics at 10:00 p.m.; then she convinced her parents to let her have them until 10:30 p.m. Soon after, she simply refused, claiming that she was behaving responsibly. And the parents admitted that they both failed to impose any consequences for breaking rules.

These parents are not alone. They did everything right, but sometimes, even the best parenting strategies don’t work the way we hope they will.

An expert would agree that their rule regarding bedtime for electronics is very wise. They will also explain that it will never be popular with their daughter, or any teenager for that matter.

So what to do when you know that your rule is in the best interest of your teenager and they still don’t abide by it?

Setting and Enforcing Teen Phone Rules

1. Be calm and clear

State what your expectations will be without emotion involved – it just is the way it is, and that won’t be changing. If they want to discuss it, hear them out and pay attention to their concerns in a calm conversation. There may be some adjustments you can make over time; however, it is more likely that it is just difficult for them to have any kind of restriction.

2. Stay firm

If you believe that it is best for your teenager to be without distractions at bedtime (and all logic and studies point in that direction), stay steady. It’s hard to hold the line with an irritated teen chipping away at your confidence. Trust your wisdom and offer empathy in response to their frustration.

Here is an example of a response you might be able to use when faced with anger or an argument: “You want your electronic curfew to be later. It must feel frustrating when you believe you are capable of more responsibility, yet we are restricting you. Our job as your parents is to pay attention to what is best for you. And this is what we believe is best.”

Even if you are calm, clear, and firm, know that your teenager will be upset. If they stomp off, wish them well in your thoughts as they learn to manage their frustration (this is a valuable lesson, too). It’s a long journey and teen years are challenging for everyone who is involved. Breathe. Laugh. Learn as you go.

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