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Taking Away Electronics as a Punishment

By Emma Davies


Published on

Getting your phone taken away is quite a common punishment and a lot of parents do it to teach their kid a lesson. It’s most common to punish teens in this way as they’re the ones who have phones but lots of kids get their electronics taken away too.

Taking Away Electronics as a Punishment

If you’re taking away your kid’s electronics then you may think it’ll stop bad behavior because you’re getting their attention and cutting them off from their friends. But the truth is, none of this is normally going through their head when you take it away. But this is what is going through their heads – That you’re taking away everything – their social life, their friends, their privacy.

Why Do Parents Take Away Phones?

Research by Pew Research Center actually showed that 65% of parents take away electronics and cell phones as their go to punishment. A lot of these parents will take away electronics if their kid was rude, or lazy, or if they came home late and talked back.

Most of the time, electronics are taken away for behavior that wasn’t associated with that device, as we’ve just listed. But, because the consequence isn’t related to the bad behavior, it feels very hurtful and cruel for your kid.

In extreme circumstances, parents take away phones so they can be controlling and manipulative by taking away their kid’s freedom. Most parents will take phones away in the hope that they learn not to behave a certain way but you may find that it does more harm than good.

The Pros and Cons of Taking Your Child’s Phone Away

There can be a few benefits to taking away your child’s phone like getting them to behave better and to adopt healthy habits but there are also a few negatives that make everything a bit more difficult. If you’re going to take your kids’ electronics away then we’d recommend doing so for a short period of time like hours rather than days.

Here are some positives of taking your child’s phone away that may benefit you as a parent as well as your family.


  • Discovering time – You may find that your kid feels like there’s way more time in a day when their eyes aren’t stuck to their electronics. Think of all that time they could be scrolling mindlessly through social media instead of going outside or reading or doing the things that need to be done.
  • Positive impact on mental health – Not having the pressures of social media around us can often have a positive impact on our mental health. This is especially if your kid is comparing themselves to what they see on social media. By taking a break from social media, you may find that your kid thinks slightly better of themselves. But, it’s important to remember that you’ve just taken their phone away, their entire communication basis and so they still may be slightly bitter or angry about all this.
  • Family time – Taking away a kid’s electronic device could go one of two ways. Firstly, it could encourage them to spend more time with you as a family and to do activities that don’t include technology like reading or playing outside. You could also go on a family trip out and you won’t have your kid scrolling or texting. But, this could go the other way, which is your kid locking themselves in their room until their tech ban is over. They may not want to spend any time with you because you took away their privileges.


But just like anything, using technology as a punishment can do more harm than good, especially to your bond and relationship with your kid.

  • Breakdown of your relationship – You may find that when you take away a piece of technology, you’re actually removing a whole lot more than just a device. Your kid’s whole friend network could be on there and their whole way of communication and their privacy has just been invaded and taken away. So, you may find that the bond you had with your kid is slowly starting to break down as they’re slowly losing you. Do you want to lose your kid over a piece of technology?
  • Resorting to sneaky behavior – When you take technology away, your kid may withdraw a bit from you as a parent as we discovered in the point above. As a result, they may not talk to you about their struggles or pain and you may actually be setting yourself up for a dishonest teen. Because of this, they may turn to sneaky behavior.
  • Rebelling – A lot of kids may be quite angry that you’ve taken away their phone and so may invite retaliation. A common example is that your kid will stay in bed until you’re late for work and screaming at them with the mindset of “Well, you’re taking my phone”. They’ll also want to prove to you that the phone isn’t the reason they were misbehaving and so you may find that their behavior gets worse.
  • Reinforcing the need for electronic devices – If your kid is one of those kids who are deterred from behaving badly because they’re scared they’ll lose their electronics then you’re actually reinforcing their need for screens. You’re also in a way, rewarding your kid in a way that’s allowing them to have more time away from you.

How To Limit Cell Phone Use for Teenagers

Putting limits and boundaries in place can have a positive impact on your kid as they’re not constantly glued to their phone. This is also better than using technology as a punishment.

Some people will have a family rule like no phones at the dinner table and you can always have a little phone basket to put them in before you eat. This will also encourage family time and may help your teen to feel a little less embarrassed of their family in the future.

There are also lots of apps out there that help your kids manage their time, especially if they’re on technology a whole lot. These apps will block sites that may be distracting like YouTube after an extended period of time, giving your kid the ability to start disciplining themselves and coming to the conclusion of how much screen time is too much.

If you have younger kids then using screen time as a privilege is an excellent way to limit tech usage. You’ll need to make it perfectly clear that screen time is a privilege.

Cell Phone Rules for Teens

Here are some ideas of cell phone rules for teens that may help with screen time and excessive phone usage, without taking the phone away.

  • No technology before school.
  • No cell phones while driving.
  • No cell phones in bedrooms.
  • Don’t use them overnight.
  • Don’t use cell phones in class unless asked by the teacher.
  • No phones at dinner.
  • No cell phones while doing homework.
  • Keep open communication about the possible dangers of the web.

Of course, we’re not in your family and so we can’t make the rules for you but if you do decide to use a few of these rules, then make sure you establish them from the start so your children know the drill. There’s no point introducing these rules all of a sudden after 2 years of your kid having a phone.

In fact, some families actually write down the rules and get their kids to sign a contract so everyone knows what the rules are. They’ll also help build healthier habits with screen time and your kids won’t constantly be on their screens.

Do You Get A Cell Phone for Good Behavior?

A cell phone shouldn’t be something you give just so you can take it away. In fact, that’s quite a controlling and manipulative thing to do as a parent.

But, is it something you give to reward good behavior?

Honestly, it kind of depends on your preferences as a parent but it is recommended to wait until your kid is fully ready for a phone. For example, if your kid is irresponsible and loses things easily but is behaved well, it’s probably not the best time. This is because your child may lose the phone you’ve just bought them and these things can be expensive.

So if you’re considering getting your kid a cell phone, make sure they’re ready and have an equal balance of good behavior, responsibility, maturity, and so on.

Is Taking Away a Phone A Good Punishment?

So, if you’re unsure whether or not to use taking away electronics as a punishment or if taking away a phone is a good punishment then we would advise you against it.

This is because it actually causes a lot more harm than good and can potentially put a very big strain on the relationship you have with your kid.

If your kid was misbehaving on their phone or looking at inappropriate things online then a tech ban may be more suited but if you’re taking away their phone because they talked back to you then maybe it’s not the best shout.

About Emma Davies

Emma Davies is a freelance writer that specializes parenting and animal topics. With over 20 years experience as a parent there are very few topics that faze her.

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