The ultimate threat

Two-thirds of parents say their “ultimate threat” is taking away their child’s devices. But does it work?

When should you - and when shouldn’t you - seize control?

Is the ultimate threat to your kids taking away their screen-time or phone? In a recent survey of over 1000 parents, 64% admitted it was. 

In the battle for (and against) screen-time, confiscating those weapons of mass distraction can seem like the only solution.

And there are times, say experts, when it may in fact be a parent’s best tactic.

But they also warn that a threat is not a strategy - and parents need to think twice about exercising their options.

In a crisis, warns Family Zone cyber expert and clinical psychologist Jordan Foster, confiscating devices will almost certainly make a bad situation worse - alienating kids and making it less likely that they’ll seek the help they need from parents.

“If a child comes to you and says they’ve made a mistake and something bad has happened, you should never take that child’s device away,” she says.

“Many parents do this as a knee-jerk reaction. But what this means to the child is that she is being punished for sharing something with her parents.”

The resulting fear creates a communication barrier between kids and parents, and this “is a tremendous problem when it comes to the online world.”

“It’s vital that we make it clear to kids that if they do share something with us, be it cyber bullying, peer pressure around sending nudes, accidentally stumbling across pornography, etc, that we won't immediately take their phone away.”

Jordan Foster, ySafe CEO and founder

By sharing with us, our children are showing responsible behaviour - and parents need to respect that by helping their children work through a situation.

That said, Foster acknowledges that there are situations where “the ultimate threat” can be useful and necessary. “Removing devices can be a very powerful behaviour management strategy. At the same time, parents need to remember that they have a number of behaviour management strategies up their sleeve, not just removing devices.

“For teenagers, removing their 'lifeline' to their friends could result in a lot of resentment towards parents. Although that is a relatively normal part of parenting, it's uncomfortable for everyone.”


passwordConfiscating devices can result in even more unhelpful behaviour.

Parents also need to guard against lurching from unlimited access to no access - an either/or approach that is confusing and frustrating for kids. Foster advises a more nuanced and consistent approach can be achieved by using parental controls to limit screen-time, filter certain content and set study- and bed-times.

Her final word of advice? Punishment alone is not enough. The end goal should be a positive change in behaviour - and that requires learning. “Parents should always use behaviour management opportunities not only to enforce rules, but to help a child learn why the behaviour was negative in the first place.

“They need to understand why the rule was important, and how they can avoid the same negative consequence in the future by displaying positive behaviour.”

Family Zone is the parental control solution of choice for thousands of families across the globe. Our uniquely holistic approach to digital safety emphasises community, conversation and education to help digital families thrive. Learn more and start your free trial today at

photo credit: Frances Andrijich Photography

Topics: Parental Controls, Screen time, digital parenting, teens on social media

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