3 Tips for When You’re Trying to Get Your Teen off their Phone

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at a recent article from Pew Research Center that highlights parents’ concern for the amount of time teens are spending on their cellphones.

An article from Pew Research Center highlighted a new finding that 54% of U.S. teens say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and two-thirds of parents express concern over their teen’s screen time. While this research doesn’t come as much of a surprise, many don’t know how to navigate the tricky parenting landscape of today’s tech-infused world. What complicates things further is that many parents find it difficult to keep off their own phones, so it can seem hypocritical when they are trying to discipline their teens for a behavior they themselves are doing.


Every family and every parent-teen relationship is different, but across the board, getting off of your devices (both of you!) will give you more time to bond and help your teen develop valuable communication skills. Below are a few tips that can help you while addressing this issue.

Always explain the “why” behind restrictions. “Because I said so.” We’ve all said it and we all remember it well from when our parents said it to us. Teens hate to hear this phrase because (on top of not being able to do what they want), they’re unable to see the reasoning behind it, so they think you’re just “being unfair.” When you explain to a teen that excessive phone use is affecting their health, their social skills, and their ability to concentrate on schoolwork it will start to paint the picture for them that their choices now could affect their future. Sure, they may be mad in the moment, but by arming them with this knowledge, you’re opening the door for them to put down the phone of their own volition.

Admit your own downfalls. Do you also have the temptation to check your phone a little too often? Tell your teen this – let them know that this is an issue that everyone in the modern world deals with, and how a part of maturity is recognizing when you need to set aside distractions and focus on more important things. You can also try following the same rules you set for them – if you have set “no phone zones,” that means you, too. The quickest way for a teen to not listen to your advice is when they think you’re being hypocritical.

Encourage them to read actual books. Recent research from the American Psychological Association found that the percentage of teens who read a book or newspaper every day has dropped from 60% to just 16% from 1970 to 2016. Moreover, 1 in 3 high schoolers did not read a single book for pleasure in 2016. Yes, the landscape has changed, and many people enjoy reading and getting their news on their devices, but the fact of the matter is that most of what teens are reading online isn’t full-length books or insightful articles. By helping teens see the joy in reading actual books, they may opt to do that each night instead of endless scrolling through social media on their phone.

Want to learn more about Pew Research Center’s findings? You can read the full article here.


Along with following our blog, you can stay updated on new studies and trends in teen behavior, advice for keeping teens away from risky behaviors, general teen parenting tips, and more by keeping up with the Stop Medicine Abuse initiative on Facebook and Twitter.