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Teens and the Cell Phone: The Pros, the Cons, and Setting Limits

By Kimberly Blaker

If anything is synonymous with adolescence, talking on the phone certainly tops the list. Of course, this phenomenon isn’t unique to today’s teens. Think back to your teen years. Remember the carefree days of lingering on the phone with your friends discussing such vital matters as what to wear to your brother’s (and his cute teammates’) baseball game; your secret crush on the new boy next door; and the oppressive rules your parents have laid down?

In some respects, today’s teens are no different. Nearly a couple decades back, a study conducted by the University of Illinois found the average teen spent 2 to 3 hours a day on the phone (although only about half of that time was actually spent in conversation). At the time, that statistic seemed excessive to some parents considering how unhealthy such amounts of time spent plopped in front of the TV or playing video games can be.

But psychologists say teens need such opportunities for socializing to broaden and strengthen their social networks. During the teen years, this need for constant socializing may appear to be a lack of responsibility and a shortage of other interests. But it’s crucial to your teen’s social development and sense of identity.

However, the amount of time teens spent on the phone, and media in general, only 20 years ago, dulls in comparison to the amount of time today’s teens spend on media, primarily via their cell phone. A 2015 study found tweens are spending 6 hours a day on media, and teens are averaging a whopping 9 hours a day.

The reason this problem exists today is that every form of media is now always in the palm of kids’ hands via their cell phone. Everything from videos and movies to music, books, video games, and social media are had on this single pocket-size device.

How widespread the problem has become is evident in that seventy-eight percent of all teens now own cell phones, according to a 2013 study conducted by Pew Research. What’s particularly interesting is that more than half of teen-owned cell phones have been purchased by and and to relieve worried parents, says the Detroit News. The resolution of one problem, however, has created another.

Other problems have also arisen with teen cell phone use such as high cell phone bills, safety issues when less experienced drivers are talking or texting, and cyberbullying, to name a few.

Another issue has also evolved. According to twenty percent of teens surveyed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the use of online correspondence has become teens’ main means of communication with their peers, which means they’re becoming more isolated when it comes to real-world socialization.

Rules and Solutions Your Family Can Live With

It’s true parents need to make allowances for their teen’s growing need to socialize. But teens must also earn that privilege by adhering to rules.

To ensure the cell phone isn’t consuming an excessive amount of your teen’s time, set rules regarding its use. Do allow your teen’s input though, and try to make some compromises so your teen will more willingly adhere to the rules established. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Specify what times the cell phone may not be used such as mealtime, while doing homework, and after a certain hour at night.
  • If cell phones are shared among family members, set specific times each teen can use the phone and ask them to plan accordingly.
  • Require homework and chores be completed before using the cell phone, or allow only a short amount of phone time before completion of chores and homework.
  • Require everyone to put their phones on the chargers at night someplace outside kids’ bedrooms such as the kitchen.
  • Don’t allow teens to take their phones to school. Make them leave the phones on the charging stations where you can see them.
  • Require your teen to pay a determined portion of the cell phone bill.
    Purchase prepaid minutes to keep teens from racking up high cell phone bills.
  • Don’t allow your teen to text or talk on the phone while driving. Parents, you must also adhere to this to set a good example.
  • Have consequences for not abiding by cell phone rules. Loss of cell phone use for a period would be appropriate.


Kimberly Blaker is the author of a kid’s STEM book, Horoscopes: Reality or Trickery? containing fun experiments to help kids understand the scientific method and develop critical thinking skills.

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