Your Teen’s Phone is Not a Privilege or a Reward

As much as you don’t want to admit it, a phone is not a “reward” that you’ve bequeathed your child with

Gina Denny
12 min readApr 11, 2022


Photo by Creative Christians on Unsplash

My oldest son is sixteen. He’s had a phone since he was twelve, with gradually increasing levels of freedom on the phone.

When my son’s grades began to slip, we looked at how he was spending his time and a lot of it was on his phone. After a discussion with him about why we were doing this, we put automatically-enforced time limits on social media, games, YouTube, and his creative apps. To our surprise, he seemed relieved.

After a week or so, he was negotiating to get some time back on his creative apps (he hopes to be a voice actor someday and spends a lot of time practicing accents, recording himself, playing with sound effects, and learning how to manipulate his voice). He wanted time to do the thing he loved, but he didn’t even bother asking for social media, games, and YouTube.

“I don’t know. I don’t really miss it that much,” he said when we asked. “Plus, I’ve been getting all my stuff done without being stressed or rushed and that’s been nice.”

The fact that his grades began to rise almost immediately (it was the right time in the semester for one or two good assignments to make a big impact on the bottom line) and he was able to spend a lot more time working on his lines for the school play also helped play a role in his attitude, I’m sure.

We had limited his time on certain types of apps, but we couldn’t take the entire phone away.

His phone is his only way to reach us. There are no pay phones anywhere in our town and teachers’ phones are (rightfully) out-of-bounds for students to use.

His phone is his only way to reach his friends. None of his friends — zero — have a home phone.

Even before the pandemic, teachers used phones as a way to play interactive games during test review periods. Blooket and Kahoot are two of the most popular interactive instructional review games, but there are plenty others. One geography teacher required the kids to join Sporcle and compete with each other on geography…



Gina Denny

Author, editor, publishing professional. I help you make your writing better.