My Teen’s Cell Phone is a Privilege, Not a Right: 7 Simple Rules I’m Implementing in My Home

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: My Teen’s Cell Phone is a Privilege, Not a Right: 7 Simple Rules I’m Implementing in My Home

Written By: The Raising Teens Today Community

I get it…

When you’re a teenager, your phone isn’t used just to make phone calls and text, it’s your window to the world, the connection with your friends, entertainment when you’re bored, where you go to shop, scroll, or escape and where you find information about… well, pretty much anything.

When my husband and I purchased our three kids their cell phones, we did it so they could reach us anytime – it was more of a safety thing. Provided their cell phone was charged, they could call us no matter what which offered us comfort at a time when our kids were spending far more time out of the house (without us) – particularly when they started driving. 

Fast forward and their phones have become (quite literally) their lifeline. If they could, my kids would sleep with their phones and take them in the shower so they’d never miss the familiar “ding” on their phones. 

As a mom, I know cell phones are here to stay. I’m also accepting of all the positive benefits phones offer our kids. But just like anything else, there are negatives, too. Too much of anything is never a good thing… it’s all about balance. And, my kids’ cell phones can be a conduit to some pretty dark places on the internet.

Thus, my kids know that their cell phones are not a given. They’re a privilege, not a right. And, that privilege can be taken away if and when I feel it’s being abused, interfering with school, or hindering their social life to any great degree.

I don’t want to come off as the “phone police” with my kids, but I do expect them to follow a few simple rules for their own well-being and safety, and my peace of mind. Here are a few simple and fluid (because we always have to take the circumstances and our kids’ maturity into account) rules I’m implementing in my home – because my teen’s cell phone is a privilege, not a right.

My Teen’s Cell Phone is a Privilege, Not a Right: 7 Simple Rules I’m Implementing in My Home


1. Be Courteous 

When I’m having a conversation with my kids, when we’re sitting at the dinner table, or when we’re together as a family, I want my kids to put their phones down (or better yet, out of sight). I don’t mind if they check them (quickly) periodically, but nothing bothers me more than sitting across the table from them while they stare at their phones.

The same goes for social situations… be kind, be aware, AND be courteous. If they’re talking with friends, on a date, talking with a teacher, professor, or coach, put the dang phone away and make eye contact! It’s rude… plain and simple. 

2. School and Homework Come First

The tricky part about this rule is that, quite often, my kids will use their phones while they’re doing homework after school. They’ll check the teacher’s website, refer back to something they took a picture of in the classroom or they’ll take practice tests online.

However, if I notice that they’re spending far too much time checking Snapchat, or scrolling through Instagram or TikTok videos when they should be studying or doing homework, they know I’ll take their phone away so they can focus. Again, this rule is “fluid.” If my kids are doing a great job of juggling homework with phone time and their grades don’t seem to be suffering, I’ll back off.

NOTE: It’s important to loosen your grip as your kids become older. It’s not like you’ll be sitting in their dorm room in college monitoring their phone use. They need to learn to manage their time and phone use on their own.

3. No Phones in Bedrooms at Night

The older my kids get, the later they stay up which means I’m typically in bed (sound asleep) long before they go to bed.

One night I woke up around 2 am and found my 14-year-old daughter on her cell phone. (You can bet she was exhausted the next day and could hardly function.) 

Rather than giving my kids free rein with their phones, I insist phones be placed in a central location in the house at night. Depending on your teen’s age, maturity, and circumstances (maybe they have a huge exam or final they’re studying for and they’ll be up late), you can choose a time that’s suitable for them and you. (When my kids were young teens it was 10 pm. As they got older we stretched that time out.)

4. Pause Before You Text

I want my kids to THINK before they hit the send button. 

Are they going to regret what they sent in the morning?

Does what they’re texting have the potential to hurt someone or damage their reputation?

Are they passing along gossip?

How would they feel if this text went public?

I also want them to consider that some things are better said in person OR perhaps not at all and that there are some things they should never say or send in a text.

Never use social media and texting as a way to avoid talking to someone in person – especially about sensitive subjects (like when they’re apologizing or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend.) Texts can easily be misconstrued. Never ever send revealing photos (grounds to have their phone taken away indefinitely), and never share highly personal information.

5. No Cell Phone Distractions While Driving

Considering our state (and many others) only allow hands-free cell phone use, it goes without saying that I don’t want my kids on their phones or texting when they’re driving. Plain and simple, it’s a recipe for disaster – especially considering that 39 percent of high school students admit to texting and/or emailing while driving and 4 in 10 teens aged 12-17 have reported riding with a driver who used their cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger. 

Most new drivers (and even more seasoned drivers) simply don’t understand how quickly disaster can strike when they’re glancing at their phones – even for 3-5 seconds! No text is that important. And, if it is urgent, pull over somewhere safe and respond to the text or call. If it brings you peace of mind, check out these apps that can help prevent your teen from distracted driving, including texting. 

6. Questionable or Inappropriate Scrolling is Off Limits

Porn sites, Tinder, (or other hook-up apps), the dark web, or any other questionable sites or scrolling isn’t allowed. The internet can be a very dangerous place – especially for young teens.

I know some parents may disagree with the idea of monitoring their teen’s phone because it invades their privacy, but my kids are minors living under my roof and nothing matters more to me than their safety.

If keeping them safe means checking their phones occasionally, putting parental controls in place, or blocking sites altogether, you bet I’ll do it. It’s my phone, not theirs. I’m paying for it, not them. More importantly, my kids are my world and it’s my job as a parent to make decisions in their best interest whether they like it or not. They’re relying on me to protect them, they just don’t realize it… yet. 

7. Answer Texts/Calls From Mom and Dad 

The ONE thing that always seems to send me over the edge is when my kids (used to… they don’t do it anymore) blow off my calls or texts because they were “having fun” with friends. It’s one thing, of course, if they’re driving, at practice, talking with a coach or teacher, or any number of other legitimate reasons why they can’t respond right away, but choosing not to respond because they “didn’t feel like it?” Nope, that’s not gonna fly in my house.

My mind has a way of getting carried away when I don’t hear from them periodically and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to respond to my text with a “Hey Mom, I’m fine. I’m at Justin’s house.” or “Hi Mom, I saw you called. I’ll call you back as soon as I can.” 

My teen’s cell phone might be the first thing they look at when they wake up and the last thing they glance at before going to bed, but I feel I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent if I didn’t monitor, or at the very least, put some parental rules in place for their safety and well-being.

Sure they might fight me, but I’m keeping my eye on the end goal… to raise well-balanced, healthy, happy, and well-adjusted kids. 

If you enjoyed reading, “My Teen’s Cell Phone is a Privilege Not a Right: 7 Simple Rules I’m Implementing in My Home,”  here are a few other posts you might like!

Is Your Teen Addicted to Their Phone? Strategies to Help Them Break Free

Is Your Teen a Night Owl? Why it’s Wreaking Havoc in their Life and How to Help Them Get More Zzzzs

Help… My Teenager is So Disrespectful and I’m Worn Out Trying to Handle It

Why Not Join Us?
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
RAISING TEENS TODAY is a resource and safe zone for parents to share the joys, challenges, triumphs and frustrations of raising our oh, so imperfect (but totally awesome) teens. PLUS, sign up and you'll receive my FREE e-Book "Scoring Scholarships!"

You may also like

Leave a Comment