2 weeks ago
Hi everyone. I have a 17y/o who plays with his phone when he goes to bed. He stays up playing until 4am and often later.
He has recently just moved in with me ( after his mum has kicked him out, for continued physical/verbal abuse). Yesterday I talked to him about giving me the phone when he goes to bed. I told him about my reason which he listened to. But when it came to bedtime, he refused and continued his phone use. In response, I have taken the data off his phone plan and I will turn my wifi off when I go to bed tonight.
I'm expecting him to be very angry when he realises what I have done (he is still in bed at the time of writing at 2pm). Has anyone else had this experience? How did you navigate this? With so much science around poor sleep patterns leading to irritability, anger, depression I feel this is very important to help him, as he is showing all these symptoms and threatening suicide. Am I doing the right thing?
2 weeks ago - last edited 2 weeks ago
Hi @Dad2a17y_o ,
You're definitely not alone in having problems navigating boundaries around screen time with your teenager- we hear from a lot of other parents in similar situations. It sounds like it's been a pretty tough time with him moving in with you so recently and being kicked out of home, I'm so sorry to hear that.
The right solution with screen time can look different for each family. I think the concerns about excessive screen time, especially at night if it's interfering with sleep, are really valid. A lot of families have boundaries around the use of phones at night - for example, some families might agree to leave their phones in the kitchen overnight, or have no phones after 10pm etc.
However, it also may be worth looking at what your son is using his phone for- is he gaming? Chatting with friends? Using online forums? etc. Technology can also be an important medium for social connection for young people - a lot of mental health services have online support options which are really popular, for example, so I would be a bit cautious about removing his digital access more permanently. From what you've said here, it is hard to know what the relationship between your son's screen use and his mental health is, and it could be a really good idea to chat to a professional to unpack this.
However, I can completely understand the need to have boundaries around this. ReachOut do have some great resources on helping teens to navigate technology use here that might also be helpful.
We've also had a lot of parents who've had discussions around this, so I just thought I would link to a range of those here in case that's helpful
You mention that your son is showing some irritablity, anger and depression as well as threatening suicide- that sounds very concerning, and it's something that should always be taken seriously. Has your son ever seen a mental health professional for support at all? Your GP can be a good first point of contact to have a chat and get some more support.
It's really important to get help if your son is at risk of harming himself- for immediate support, these services are available 24/7:
LIfeline: 13 11 14
Support if you, or someone you know, is suicidal (15 years and over)
To talk to someone about anything that’s going on in your life (5 to 25 years).
WIshing you all the best - I can imagine that this is an incredibly tough and stressful time for you as a parent and I can hear how strongly you have your son's best interests at heart. please keep us posted on how you get on
2 weeks ago
Thank you for that Janine. Yes He has seen counsellors as his mother and school have insisted that he goes, but he has not engaged with them, won't communicate at all, say that he's fine or simply lie. Unfortunately he will not talk to me at all. He wont engage with any suicide help material from organisations also.
An update... last night he was angry when I turned the wifi off at about 10.30pm. He then got out his speaker and played loud music to try to annoy me. It worked! I was able to take the speaker off him but he continued to play the music off his phone, sing and whistle. He did eventually quite down at midnight. I woke up at 2.30am and noticed he was talking to a friend on his phone.
I'm worried this behaviour will escalate if I maintain my rules of no phones at bedtime. I can see him damaging the property and or my things. On the other hand I feel I should cancel his phone all together with the knowledge that he can have it back if he talks to me or perhaps engage with a counselling service. Please note, I have my wifi on during the day so he is not completely shut off from online friends and services. He just doesn't want help.
2 weeks ago
Thanks for getting back to us so quickly. Sorry to hear about what happened last night, have you had a chat to him about this yet?
I understand your concerns about his behaviour escalating if there is a no phones rule, and I think what @Janine-RO was saying is important about being mindful of how he is using technology and what this will mean for him if technology is removed. What do you think the impact on him is when his phone is taken away?
It's definitely really tricky to know exactly what the right approach is and it might mean a it could be an idea to phase in the approach you choose to make it easier/gentler on everyone. Sometimes schools are able to provide a bit of support and guidance around issues like this, is contacting the school for support something that you think could be helpful?
It's really tough that he hasn't been willing to engage in suicide supports, please keep the above crisis supports that Janine mentioned in mind if their support is required. It can be really tricky to balance having firm boundaries while also being sensitive to a childs specific needs. It's clear that you deeply love your son and really want what is best for him