Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Teens cell phone addiction

Should teenagers have a technology curfew?

teenager on cellphone


Oh the joys of being a parent in the digital age!

When we were teens, our parents only had to worry about whether to implement a curfew for us to arrive home from nights out with friends. Now,  as parents of teens,  there is a debate over whether to give a “technology curfew.”  Should you force your teenager to power down electronics at a certain time of night?

At the gym this morning, a few moms got to talking about our weekends. One mom confessed she spent the whole weekend battling with her son over how much he plays Xbox. At 1:30 in the morning, she insisted he get off Xbox and go to bed. But he said the phrase most mothers know well. “Okay mom, in a minute.” The mom said finally, her husband used some app on his phone to disable the Xbox. (That sounded really cool to me!)

Of course, her son was mid-game and went crazy. She said he spent the next hour yelling and trying to restore the game. ( I can just picture what that looks like, can you?)

“I don’t mind my son unwinding on the weekends, but when he stays up late, he ‘s grumpy the next day or wants to sleep to noon and half the weekend is gone,” the mom said.

Another mom who was part of the conversation said her 13-year-old daughter was up at 1:30 a.m. over the weekend  on the House Party app on her phone, talking to a bunch of friends. This mother also had battled with her daughter about powering down and going to bed.

I can relate to these moms. Sometimes late at night, I think my son is sleeping and I hear noise. “What the heck is going on? “I ask myself.  When I go into his room, I find him watching videos on his Instagram feed and cracking up.  “Go to bed,” I say, and what do you think the response is?   “In a minute mom.”

Sure, our kids need chill time, and since they find electronics their entertainment, I’m all for letting them use their phones for video games or to join a “House Party.” I get that their social lives today revolve around electronics.

Still, I understand the frustrations of these gym moms. I have gone to bed many times with a hoard of boys gathered around the TV in the playroom screaming at the characters on the screen in their video game.  And yes, I have contemplated implementing an electronics curfew.

According to The Seattle Times,  our teenagers may need our help powering down. Self-control is not fully developed in teen brains, so it can be hard for teenagers to voluntarily turn off a video game or  close out of Instagram, the article said. One expert said giving teenagers smartphones without any restrictions is like offering them an unlimited supply of Häagen Dazs ice cream and telling them not to eat too much.

A typical “technology curfew”  requires teens to put on their phones on chargers in their parents’ rooms or kitchens at 9 or 10 p.m. to prevent them from losing sleep to  late night text conversations or videos.

So, if any of you have tried a technology curfew, how did it work out? What do you think is a reasonable time for electronics to be shut down, and does it differ on weeknights and weekends?

Why teens don’t want the new iPhone 7




So, here comes the new iPhone and the reaction is lukewarm  with teens.

Usually, the announcement of a new iPhone creates a stir in the morning carpool. Not this time.

Yesterday, I had a car full of teen boys and I asked them who is going to get the new iPhone. No response. ( They were too busy looking at the latest videos on their phones  to hear an adult voice).

Still, I kept prodding. Finally, one looked up. Then another. The reason for their lack of enthusiasm, they explained, is the headphone situation.  They told me the lack of a headphone jack will cut them off from access to their music, which is a HUGE part of their lives. (I’m still trying to prevent my son from listening to dirty rap music, not an easy task!) They also wondered why the new wireless headphones didn’t have the phone built right into them. (That’s coming next, I assured them) So, bottom line is that they aren’t going to beg their parent for the phone.

Meanwhile, one 17-year-old girl told MediaPost that her dream device would be an iPhone 7 with a headphone jack. (Maybe Apple should have spoken with some teens before it went wireless!)  MediaPost says the teens it spoke to noted how they can’t listen in the car anymore, can’t charge their phones while listening, and they can’t use their favorite headphones with the device.

Did Apple make a mistake with the coveted teen crowd? We’ll have to wait a few months to find out.  What does your teen think about they new iPhone and its wireless headphones? If the begging hasn’t started, that’s surely as sign.


The Day I Switched Cell Phones With My Teenage Son

Teenagers using cellphones

Teenagers using cell phones








I was dropping my son at school yesterday when he realized he left his cell phone at home. Tragedy! Big tragedy!

I told him he would make it through the day without his phone, but he explained that his AP History teacher gives extra credit points to students who put their phones in her basket when they enter the classroom.

“Please, let me use your phone today,” he begged.

“I will let you use mine, but I need to use yours,” I told him. So, we made a deal and he provided me his password to unlock his phone. “What a bonanza!  I legitimately had completely access to his phone!”

As soon as I picked it up and unlocked it, the phone already was buzzing and pinging with incoming messages.  Let me just say that my day quickly turned into a learning experience about teen cell phone useage, particularly what teens talk about and what goes on in high school.

First, my son received a text invitation to a birthday party. It was pretty high tech with lots of pop ups. I was impressed!

Next, he received a series of complaints about various teachers. Boy, kids complain about teachers A LOT! They complain about everything from their appearances to their demeanors to their attitudes to their fairness. I decided I don’t want to be a high school teacher.

From the messages that followed, I learned who made a new twitter account, who posted something funny to Instagram and who had made an awful musical.ly video. It made me wonder if teens can make it through a day without social media? Probably not.

What really cracked me up were the group texts. They had such hilarious names like APaulaDeen and FrackiesPlus2.  One clever message poster call himself Lord Farquaad, after the villain in Shrek, and had a lot to say about who he considered as hot as Princess Fiona.  Teens are quite creative and funny in group texts.  They also are busy posting all day long — even when they’re supposed to be participating in class.  I began to understand why my son’s  teacher had enticed her students to leave their phones in a box at the door.

I also learned  from text messages that teens are pretty helpful to each other as far as sharing info about homework assignments and what chapters the next day’s quiz is going to include. I started wishing we had cell phones when I was in high school.

On the flip side, my son saw all my text messages coming in. I’m sure he found them boring compared to his. Meanwhile, I couldn’t call anyone all day because I don’t have any cell numbers memorized. I realized I rely way too much on my contact list.

Still, I enjoyed a peek into the teen life — even if it was just for a day. I only can imagine what I would have learned if I had gotten to have my son’s phone for the night, too.  Oh well,  a mom can dream….


Cell phones and homework? The struggles of a parent of a teen

A few days ago, I walked into the room to see my son at his desk staring at his cell phone.  I yelled at him to put it down and get his homework done. But,  he insisted he was doing his homework. “Mom, I’m looking up my assignment,” he told me.

Lately, I’ve noticed a big difference in the way my youngest child Garret, a high school freshman, uses his phone and the way his older siblings used their phones .  Garret uses his phone for everything he needs to do his homework. He uses it to look up word definitions, check his grades, calculate math problems and research science terms. Of course, in between, he’s also liking pictures on Instagram and pulling up videos on Vine.

As a parent, I’m struggling with maintaining control over how much connectivity is too much, particularly when my teen is a digital native who considers a paperback dictionary “ridiculous” and “unnecessary”.

A big problem is that homework in my house seems to drag on for hours and I find myself nagging Garret to hurry up so he can get to sports practice on time or get to bed at a decent hour.  While I realize that teachers pile on the homework, I’m sure that some of the reason it drags on for hours is because of the distraction of electronics.

In a new study by Common Sense Media, half of the teenagers said they watch TV or use social media either “a lot” or “sometimes” while doing homework, and 76 percent said they listen to music while working.  Half of the teens also said that listening to music actually helps their work, while only 6 percent said they thought it hurt.

“As a parent and educator, there’s clearly more work to be done around the issue of multi-tasking,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, an organization that monitors youthful media use and gives recommendations to parents told NBC News. “Nearly two-thirds of teens today tell us they don’t think watching TV or texting while doing homework makes any difference to their ability to study and learn, even though there’s more and more research to the contrary.”

My friend Stefani is just as frustrated as I am. She took her son’s cell phone away from him a few days ago. She explained to me that he’s a kid who is easily distracted and whose grades have been slipping. “I blame that darn phone,” she said.

The phone is just one culprit in our teens’ addiction to devices.  New research has found that teens are spending a reported nine hours a day on media consumption, with tweens trailing not too far behind, dedicating an estimated six hours to their smartphones or tablets.

Steyer says that that statistic  is sad because it “shows you that kids spend more time with media and technology than they do with their parents, time in school or any other thing.”

While it is sad, it also is reality.

Until now, I’ve been okay with letting my son use his phone while doing homework. He is doing well in school. But this survey has me wondering if I am making a mistake. Maybe I should make Garret put his phone in the desk drawer until his homework is finished. What do you think…should cell phones be part of the homework routine —  or banned until it’s completed?

Let’s call them “Generation Strike A Pose”

I am on vacation, on top of a volcanic rock, and my daughter has given me her iPhone to take her photo. She is posing in an Instagram-worthy way, but I am realistic enough by now to know I will never be able to capture the pose to her liking.

On the occasions that I have tried to play photographer, my daughter has deleted my subpar attempts and replaced them with a more likeable shot that better captures her pose, usually a pic that another teen or sibling has snapped.

If you have ever browsed your teen’s Instagram feed or followed a teen on your own account, you will know the like-worthy poses my daughter and her peers aim to capture on their smartphone screens — the glamourous girl hand on hip shot, the lips pursed and eyes wide shot or the cool dude holding up two fingers in a  peace sign  shot.

As a mother of teens, I have learned that any location can instantly become a photo shoot. I might be driving along, transporting my  daughter and her friends somewhere when suddenly my backseat becomes a studio. The flash goes off over and over while my teen passengers mug for the camera. Watching them strike a pose, snap, delete, snap again and post, I wonder about the future for a generation that tries so hard to be viewed in a picture perfect way.

I think about the little camera with a disposable flash bulb that I had as teen. I remember how it took weeks to finish off the film, get it developed and either happily slip the glossy  3 x 5  into a photo album or tear it up and lose the paper memory forever. Unlike my teens, I didn’t walk around all the time with my pocket camera, and picture taking wasn’t an everyday  or every hour event. But then again, my friends weren’t glued to their smartphones giving likes to my newest selfie within seconds of posting.

One mother recently wrote on her blog: “I doubt there’s been a day in the past two years when I haven’t argued with my teenage daughter about the amount of time she spends taking selfies and posting them online.” The mom says she can’t understand why her selfie obsessed daughter can’t just smile and instead has to pout provocatively or make the duck face.
When Madonna belted out Strike a pose, Strike a pose.. .Vogue, vogue  it’s as if  she was speaking directly to the selfie generation. So I have to ask, is all the posing and posting harmless, or have we birthed a generation that is preoccupied with being camera ready?

By some miracle, my daughter has deemed my photo of her on the volcanic rock to be Instagrammable. While I gloat over my success, I’m hold firmly to my inclination that picture snapping has taken on way too much importance in our teens’ lives. What are your thoughts on Generation Strike a Pose? Are they engaged in harmless fun, or obsessed with their online appearance?

World’s Fastest Texter is….a teen of course!

I’m out with my son and we’re stopped at a red light. I’m trying to send a text message to a friend when I hear, “Oh my god mom. You text soooo slow.”

“What? I think I’m pretty fast!” I tell him.

Of course, now the light turns green and I hand the phone over to my son to finish the  text for me. In two seconds, he zips off the rest of the text.

Okay. I’m no match for a teen texter. What is it about their finger-brain coordination that has given them the edge?  They can type under tables or desks without even looking at the screen. They can text with their phones in their pockets. They can text regardless of the obstacles — angry teachers, pesky parents or even a few beers in.

So, it should be no surprise that the World’s Fastest Texter is a 17-year old Brazilian teenager who competed for the title in New York City and typed a 26-word message perfectly in just 18.19 seconds, beating the previous champion’s record of 18.44 seconds.

CNET reports that to become the Guinness World Record holder for texting, Marcel Fernandes Filho, had to text the following sentences and get both the spelling and punctuation right: “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”

Personally, I’m just surprised the kid knew how to spell and use punctuation. That’s a feat in itself.

Filho broke the record on a Samsung Galaxy S4 with the Fleksy keyboard application installed. That the same phone my son owns. Maybe I won’t be so annoyed next time I find him texting under the dinner table. I guess he’s just in training to break the world record!


Photo of Marcel Fernandes Filho, courtesy of Fleksy

What’s up with teen obsession with selfies?

Have you noticed that if you spend a day with teens, particularly girls, numerous selfies will be taken? You will be driving along minding your own business when a flash goes off in the back seat . You will be startled, but then you will remember you are transporting a teen or multiple teens so that streak of light isn’t a siren or a UFO — it’s merely another selfie.

Yes, we are raising the #selfie generation. Our kids may be future doctors or lawyers or even nuclear scientists but only if they’re not too busy posting selfies  on Instagram to worry about a career.

And, now, the selfie has made headlines for its appearance at college graduation. The University of South Florida has forbid graduates to take selfies on stage during graduation. USF notified graduating students and placed an ad in the student newspaper this week asking them to refrain from taking selfies with USF president Judy Genshaft when crossing the stage for their diplomas. The reason, they claim, is that it will slow down the graduation ceremony. But can the selfie generation really refrain from such a prime selfie opportunity?

The selfie craze has affected high school graduation, too. My daughter recently informed me that graduates at her high school no longer want the prestige of sitting on the stage during graduation. Usually, a stage seat means you’re highly ranked in the class. But sitting on the stage now means you can’t use your cell phones during the ceremony — and that means no “here I am waiting for my turn selfies.” Even worse, it means no texting for a few hours. What American teen could survive that?

As selfies document every accomplishment in my teens’ lives, I’ve been wondering…Are kids today more self-absorbed than we were at their age?

It seems like vanity has become an obnoxious online preoccupation for teens reinforced by a burning need for “likes.”  What’s amazing to me is that very few poses are off limits for selfie-taking teens. One mom I know says the sharing of self-portraits on social networking has become such an issue in her house that that she has banned bathing suit selfies.

How many of you have witnessed a teen trying repeatedly to take the perfect selfie? It can involve posing and re-posing so many times that you find yourself saying “enough already!”

So, for  parents like me who are reeling from selfie obsession,  it’s up to us to shape the future of the habit. Tell you’re kid her or she is lovable and cool and doesn’t need a selfie to prove it. You might have to do it between camera clicks.




I am frustrated by my teen’s cell phone addiction

Last night I was TRYING to find out why my daughter was in such a grumpy mood. When I went into her room to speak with her, it was as if she could only sort of hear me.

She was tapping away on the keyboard of her cell phone. When I brought to her attention that I was next to her in person, trying to have a conversation, she told me she was tired and didn’t feel like talking. I told her she was being rude and stomped out of the room.

Ugh, the life of a 21st Century mom!

Apparently, my daughter’s world exists on the little screen in her hand and at that moment, she didn’t want to make me part of it. That’s what we’re up against, parents. Sure we have an addiction to our cell phones, too. But get prepared because our teen addiction to their phones is about to get worse. The next generation is doing almost EVERYTHING from their cell phones.

One in four teens are cell-mostly Internet users, according to the Pew Research Centers Internet and American Life Projects Teens and Technology 2013 report. Moreover, one in three middle school students use mobile devices to complete their homework.

Did you know most teens sleep with their phones nearby — some even with their phones under their pillows —  just  in case a friend contacts them. Experts say this “on call” status has come to reflect obligation, anxious need, and even addiction.

Teens who use their cell phones to text are 42% more likely to sleep with their phones than teens who own phones but don’t text.  Let’s be real, here. Most teens these days use their phones to text. Teens are supposed to text in the middle of soccer games, music lessons, lacrosse practice or  karate classes  — but I’ve seen them try!

It’s become even more challenging at my house to enforce rules that everyone shuts off cell phones and no one texts at dinner, even if it’s just two of us sitting down for pizza. Still, I’m hanging tough and enforcing dinnertime rules  and that sometimes makes me the bad guy.

Some parents are enforcing cell phone curfews — no cell use after a certain time at night.  One mom told me that for her son, telling his friends that his cell phone was shut off after 11 PM actually gave him an out.

I recently read about another mother who suggested that her teens tell friends that all cell phones will be unreachable during the night as they will be on a charger pad. When her daughter voiced worry about a friend who was having a difficult time and might need someone to call – the Mom validated the concern but invited her daughter to give their house number as an emergency back-up. We all know no kid is going to call the house phone these days!

I think our kids need downtime from their phones. They just don’t know they need it. So, it’s up to us parents, and that’s not an easy job.

We have provided our teens with a high-tech world of endless connectivity. Now, we have to teach them the value of disconnecting — especially when mom is in the room!

Parents, how are you handling your teen addiction to their cell phones  and the need for constant connectivity? Do you think we as parents should embrace the new normal or should we try to encourage our kids to turn off their phones more often?


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