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Ask the Expert: I Need Cell Phone Rules for a 14-Year-Old

Dear Your Teen:

I have a 14-year-old who’s always on the phone. Even when she is not using it, it has to be near her. It’s like an addiction. She claims to like listening to music with it, but it seems to be more than that. She is a good kid and gets good grades in school. What rules should I set?

EXPERT | Dr. Carol Langlois

What are the cell phone rules for a 14-year-old? This is a question that many parents can relate to.

The phone, in some ways, has replaced the television of the 1970s. We would dread the moment a parent would say the words, “That’s enough TV. Shut it off and go outside!”

Today’s parents can think about their own teenage television habits and ask themselves: “What were the rules for TV in our house?” Use that as your reference point for cell phone rules for your 14-year-old. How much do you want your teenager to be on their phone?

Ideally, parents establish the expectations regarding phone usage from the beginning. I cannot stress this enough.

Otherwise, you’ll end up with a runaway train.

These are the questions you need to answer before handing over a phone:

  • When can your adolescent use the device? All the time? Or perhaps you want to limit it to after homework is finished or just weekends?
  • Where is the phone stored?
  • Who pays for the phone?

Again, clarify the answers to these questions in advance and make your expectations clear.

For the parent who posted this question, it will be hard to rewind and set some rules in place after the fact, but I recommend you try.

Your daughter is doing well in school. Commend her for that and explain that you don’t think the phone is hurting her academics, but that you still believe it’s important she learn to be less attached to her phone.

There is evidence that these gadgets create an addictive response in all of us. Setting limits will help your teenager learn to be less dependent on her phone.

I suggest slowly weaning your daughter off her phone toward an amount of time that you are comfortable with. Maybe start with no phone during dinner. Then move to no phone after a certain time on a school night. Explain to your daughter that just like you wouldn’t allow her to watch television 24/7, there are times when the phone also needs to be put away.

You may also consider setting up a central location for charging and storing her phone at night. This should not be her bedroom, as research shows that teenagers who have phones in their bedrooms get up to an hour less sleep than peers who keep their phones elsewhere. Your daughter gets it back once she comes downstairs for breakfast.

Also, don’t forget to take a look at your own phone habits. Remember, you are setting an example for her.

Good luck!

Dr. Carol Langlois is a former University Associate Provost and Dean, trained therapist, researcher, and writer. You can read her blog at or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her new book, Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image, is available on Amazon. 

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