Staying up late at night with a flashlight and whispering into the phone under the covers is something that most parents my age can remember doing as teens. The trick was to be very quiet, and with any luck, you had a phone—or better yet, a cordless phone—in your bedroom. In my case, getting caught meant no more phone in your room, which was easy for my mom to enforce.
Today’s teens are no different, only they are using mobile devices to Snap, text and post photos to multiple friends at once. And if they aren’t patrolled, it can go on late into the night. There are plenty of kids that spend hours and hours on their phones at school during the day—yes, in some high schools they are allowed their phones in class—and then immediately after school they start ‘networking’ with their friends as they sit on the bus or in the car riding to various activities.
It’s no secret that this generation of teens tends to be heavily scheduled, often going from activity to activity after school, rather than hanging out at the mall like we did. Their community is often found on their phones, and they are nurturing their connections by ‘hanging out’ with friends on their mobile devices. However just like talking on the phone late into the night was never a good idea, letting your teens use their phones to text, Instagram or Snapchat can also interfere with their sleep and that crucial wind-down time that they need each night.
Implementing a phone curfew for your teens is not an easy task. Especially when many of their friends may not have any phone boundaries. Every parent has the right to make their own family rules and guidelines, however, in my experience, my teens need time in the evening to decompress, and be away from all electronics in order to get adequate sleep. And that means putting their phones away a few hours prior to bedtime.
Each of them has a different time to ‘power off’ according to their age, and while my nearly-17-year-old feels like she doesn’t need a phone curfew, she still has one. Partly because she isn’t mature enough to self-regulate reasonable boundaries. I see texts and Snapchats from her friends on her phone coming in at all hours on school nights. The urge to answer those is greater than the desire she has to sleep. In our house, since we pay for their devices, we get to make the rules. This includes a curfew or cut-off time for phone usage.
Of course, implementing it has had its own struggles. Both daughters have lost their phone privileges a few different times as a result. I’ve had to be creative by changing their passwords on different social media platforms so that they don’t log in on other devices—something I learned was a clever workaround! Other times I’ve grounded them from their phones completely—only to be inconvenienced myself when I wanted to get a hold of them.
What it comes down to is setting boundaries and expectations. And I know that their job as teens is testing those boundaries, but I am still the parent and I reserve the right to make the final decision. It isn’t always a popular choice—however, it’s something that I find is absolutely necessary in order to keep my kids and household running happily.