Cell phone rules for 15-16-year-old

Author avatar

Kidslox team



When kids turn into teenagers parents realize they will soon be on their own and might be worried a bit about their offspring’s smartphone overuse. How to set the rules for 15-16-year-old youngsters? It seems that their digital habits are already formed and it will be hard to change something. Moreover, high-school teens pose a real challenge, because parents are often dogged by the belief of the necessity of using screens more and more for school and work. But our young people rarely use technology productively (not for entertainment), so the huge portion of their lives is taken up with digital self-amusement.

“Today’s children 8 to 18 years old spend about 8 hours every day indulging in various entertainment screen technologies – including video games, social networks, online videos, and TV. High-school-age kids somehow manage to spend an additional 2-3 hours each day texting and talking on the phone,” – the Kaiser Family Foundation research reports.

Follow this young-adult cell-phone rules to be sure that your child will be educated about screen time limits and won’t overdo them later.


1. Trust no one. You should know about digital myths

“They are Digital Natives,” – Marc Prensky, a video game developer, says to justify children and teens who are grown up with digital technologies and use them without limits, while their tech-inexperienced parents are considered to be “digital immigrants.” Do you really believe that kids should decide for themselves how to use their devices and time? We are just hooked with the Industrial Revolution and the ideas of industrial leaders like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.

Explain to your teenager that “all-tech-is-good-all-the-time” hype is only about business. It manipulates both children and adults to keep them staring at screens, scrolling, sharing, be seated and clicking constantly. The more time they spend on the phone, the more money will Marc Prensky or Zuckerberg earn. And they don’t care about your health and well-being. Firstly, tell your child that many leading tech execs don’t bath in gadgets – they extremely limit their usage. Provide your child with the concrete examples of such stories.

You can start with a very popular phrase from the New York Times’ article “Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent.” Writer Nick Bilton asked Steve Jobs in 2010 if his kids were enjoying the recently-released first-generation iPad. “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home,” – Mr. Jobs replied.

Many parents from the Silicon Valley use their right to guide child’s tech use rather than follow nonsense about “digital immigrants” and “digital natives.” They provide strict limits on their own kids’ digital engagement.

This thought-provoking conversation must be the initial stage for implementing the cell-phone rules in your family.

2. Trust your own research. Learn and move from myths to science

“It’s not a fair fight. Machines designed to change humans,” – Richard Freed, a child and adolescent psychologist warns. He works with “screenagers” and admits that their obsessive use of smartphones is eclipsing their connections with family and school. Therefore, they often suffer from soaring rates of emotional and academic problems, with many attempts to cope with an epidemic of video game and online addictions.

It’s often believed in modern culture that children’s adeptness at swiping screens should be a part of the traditional family structure. It is considered that kids can manipulate devices, but parents have no right to guide their using of screens. But kids don’t understand how the phone can “absorb” their real-life activities and connection with family for emotional health. Discuss this “false freedom” with your young person. Warn your child of the psychological tricks that were used by digital designers. Encourage them to take care of their well-being. Research makes a better guide to our decisions. You can do this together. For instance, a survey by the American Psychological Association links that “need to check” is a significant source of stress for most Americans.


3. Set the screen time limit goal

Feel okay about setting some healthy limits around cell-phone use. If you follow the previous two rules your adolescent should understand, why it’s important. Try to do it with the help of Kidslox, which is a very effective way to teach 15-16-year-old the screen time schedule.

Talk about the priority of their health and happiness. In nationally representative yearly surveys of United States 8th, 10th, and 12th graders 1991–2016 (1.1 million), psychological well-being (measured by self-esteem, life satisfaction, and happiness) suddenly decreased after 2012. The study shows that teens who spent more time on screens and less time with screen-free activities (sports, face-to-face interaction, homework, attending events) had lower psychological well-being. And the happiest teens (with the highest level psychological well-being) were spending between 1 and 5 hours per week with devices, while the average usage in the US is 9 hours of entertainment media a day.


4. Replace your screen time with activities

Encourage your child to indulge in sports or exercises and face-to-face social connection. Prioritizing active life instead of phone staring has the most progressive impact on teens’ well-being. Be sure that it gives positive outcomes: academic achievement, social success, and family connection. In case of child’s resistance, say that they should just try to make an experiment: “Try to do what you like to do in real life and see how you would feel.”

In fact, this is the best way to keep them away from the digital dangers. But don’t forget that your teen will soon be a grown-up, so the next step is to share this knowledge as soon as possible during your family time.


5. “Tech Talk Tuesdays”

Organize regular conversations with your teenager. Talking to your child and analyzing is a more powerful strategy, than just setting up rules without explanation. The filmmaker Delaney Ruston who made the “Screenagers” documentary suggests to have regular discussions about technology at home. She calls them “Tech Talk Tuesdays” (TTT).


There are so many questions and topics you can raise. Look through some ideas and propose your own topic for a family conversation:

  • Online safety. Putting something online, sharing photos, videos and other content must be very accurate, it reminds “screen hygiene”. What else can we do for ensuring our privacy? What can we post on social media and what should be forbidden? Sometimes you can put your real life at a risk because of sharing some inappropriate or personal information.
  • Cyberbullying. What is it? What does the child think about the bullies’ and the victims’ feelings? How to stop it?
  • Sexting. Does your teenager admit sending or receiving sexts? Discuss how to define it and what are the potential risks of sexting.
  • Screen usage and sleep problems. Is it a challenge for your child to turn off their phone before sleep? How can screens affect sleep?
  • Self-esteem and screens. Ask your teenager what contributes to their self-esteem.  How is their self-esteem affected by using social media?