I've gotten many eye rolls, and my kids are embarrassed about my rule, but that's the way it is in my household—and the kids actually have more fun in the end anyway.

By Katie Bingham-Smith
Photo by Getty Images

My daughter is a social butterfly and has a core group of friends that she spends many Friday nights with. They love eating chewy candy, spicy snacks, and they can go through a case of Gatorade in no time, and I allow it all.

There is no time like the teen years to eat sugar and carbs late at night as you are sitting in a clump clutching each other watching a scary movie and I am happy to accommodate their requests. Sleepovers aren't a time to try and serve cut up veggies, fruit, and restrict sugary drinks—I've tried and it didn't go over well. When I think about some of the best times I had growing up, they definitely involved junk food and late nights.

However, there is one rule in my house that I will stand by no matter how many kids turn their noses up, which has been quite a few thus far: I take all cell phones away from everyone at 9:30 pm.

I've gotten many eye rolls as teenagers are handing their phones over to me, and my kids are embarrassed about my rule but that's the way it is in my household. I've waited a long time to make and enforce rules, I am very good at it, and I'm not going to waste an opportunity to use my authority to humiliate my kids in front of their peers.

I'm kidding of course but my children say they think that's why I do it and follow it up with the famous, "you are the only one who has that rule!" I know I am not, but deep down I think they know there is a reason for my “cruelty.”

First, I always let the parents know it's what I do before their child spends the night. I’ve had a few parents say they do the same thing so my kids' point about me being stricter when it comes to phone usage is invalid.

I realize they may need to get in touch with their child after 9:30, and they can text or call me and I get the child their phone right away. So far, this has never been an issue, but every parent should be able to get a hold of their child whenever they want.

I always tell the kids when I am putting their phones away. I don't stuff them under my mattress and guard them all night. I believe my kids and their friends can be trusted. Also, if they walk up the basement stairs and into the kitchen where the phones are kept, I can hear them.

Why it started

I became the gatekeeper of cellphones after allowing my teens and their friends to have them during a sleepover once. I have always taken my kids' phone away at 9 pm, and when they asked if they could keep them longer since they were having friends over, I truly thought their phones would be left in the dust and they would be so engrossed with each other they'd wouldn't even want those darn phones.

The exact opposite happened. After checking in on them at midnight, every head was bowed into a device, which was ridiculous. They weren't talking or bonding, which is the whole point of a sleepover. That was it for me.

I also think no good can come from having access to a phone to text or use Snapchat (or whatever else they do) all night long. Not to mention, no one should be spending endless hours on their phone.

It works

After implementing the rule, I can hear the kids talking, laughing, interacting, and actually getting a pretty good night's rest.

I realize we want our teenagers to start making their own decisions, learning from mistakes and figuring out what feels healthy to them. But I think in this day and age where cellphone usage is so prevalent, many teenagers are depending on them as their sole source of communication and bonding and are feeling lost without them for fear they are missing something online.

This is causing them to miss out on so many real-life things—like six of their best friends who are sitting next to them, outside of a classroom, and are free to have an uninterrupted conversation.

I have no problem guiding them a bit along the way, and although they are hesitant to admit it, I can tell they have more fun without the phones. I certainly have peace of mind they are developing healthy friendships outside of their screens.

I know they will thank me for it later but for now, I accept the eye rolls.

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