Teens love their phones and hate to lose them, which gives parents some leverage.

How to Take Away a Teen's Phone

by Eric Mohrman

About two-thirds of parents confiscate their teens' cell phones as a form of punishment, according to a 2010 study from the Pew Research Center. That's not surprising because it's one of the most valuable items available to today's teenagers. They use their phones for calls, text-messaging, Internet access and taking pictures. Taking away a teen's phone can be an effective consequence for teaching better behavior if you do it right. Just don't rely solely on this one consequence; use it as one measure in your repertoire, when it fits the crime.

Explain to your teen in a calm and concise way exactly what he did to lose his cell phone privileges. Don't lecture -- it'll just be tuned out. Don't take the bait if your teen tries to drag you into an argument about what he did or about the consequence.

Ignore it when your teen insists he doesn't care about you taking his phone, or gives you a "whatever" answer. He's only trying to maintain some semblance of control and trying to make you feel powerless. Simply say something along the lines of, "It's your problem if you don't care, because that just means this will happen again."

Turn the phone off and tuck it away somewhere your teen won't be able to find or access it for the duration of the punishment. If your teen refuses to give up his phone, inform him that you will just contact the service provider and turn the phone off, and that if you have to do so, the punishment will be extended. Follow-through if necessary. As the parent of a minor, the phone company will allow you to suspend your child's service.

Use the confiscation as more than just retribution or a way to hurt your teen -- make it a learning experience. Give your teen some sort of task to complete to earn his phone back. Make it relevant to the misbehavior. For example, if your teen is in trouble for speaking disrespectfully, tell him he has to speak nicely to everyone in the house for 24 hours to get his phone back. Reset the clock if he transgresses.


  • Avoid taking away your teen's phone for long periods such as two weeks or one month, especially in the heat of the moment when you're angry. Often, such punishment is excessive for the misbehavior, and makes it more difficult to use the consequence as a teaching experience. Also, you lose leverage in the long term. It's more effective to use a short punishment with the return of the phone hinging on your teen demonstrating he can correct the problem behavior.

About the Author

Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images