Should We Let Teens Text Their Friends to Tell Them When They Are Grounded?

Experts say discipline should be respectful, but should that respect extend to a child's friend? One Redditor made the case that it should.

Cell phones: They're a great way to keep in touch with loved ones, but they can complicate things for parents. From mental health concerns to ethical questions about how much parents should monitor their kids' tech use, there's just a lot to sort through these days.

Not to throw another one on your plate, but one Reddit parent added something else to think about: What to do If your kid is grounded? Should you let them tell their friends over text? It's complicated.

"Since landlines aren't the norm, let your kids text that they're grounded," started u/sapphirerises in the Parenting subreddit. "I get that this might be controversial and that the well-being of our kids will always come first, but just think of that other kid for a minute. One day they have a best friend, and then the next, they've been ghosted…For a lot of teens, the sudden absence can be really confusing."

For better or worse, cell phones give us constant access to communication devices (when we're not grounded, of course). But, as the Redditor points out, landlines may actually have been better at communicating when a child was on punishment.

"When we were younger, we had the benefit of parents or siblings answering the phone and saying, 'So-and-so is grounded,'" the person wrote. "Kids nowadays don't get that."

And the poster fears not being able to communicate about being grounded may only contribute to mental health issues like anxiety, something teens are experiencing in higher numbers these days.

"As an adult, it'd be pretty stressful if a best friend I talked to every day…ghosted me," the parent said. "Throw some teenage hormones into the mix, and I'd be a little ball of anxiety and depression."

This Redditor knows letting your kids text their friends that they are grounded isn't a perfect solution, but they encouraged others to consider it from all angles.

"Do we have to be considerate of other parents' kids? No," the person wrote. "Would we want to see our own kids spend a week thinking their best friend hated them? Also, no."

closeup of hand holding an iphone
Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Getty (1)

Though the original poster thought it might be controversial, most commenters were on board.

"I think I agree [with] at least giving them the opportunity to tell their friends that they're in trouble and won't have their phone for a while instead of just disappearing," wrote one person.

"One-hundred percent agree," another commenter said. "Whenever my friends were grounded and suddenly stopped responding, I always got really nervous. A couple of my friends had severe depression, and then not responding made me really anxious."

One parent found a compromise with their teens. "When my teens are grounded, they get five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening to reply to texts," the person said. "That way, they don't miss important information or cause their friends to worry, but it's restrictive enough that they feel the effects of the punishment."

It's an interesting topic to think about in today's technology-driven world. On the one hand, the grounded kid can probably tell their friends at school. But during summer months or in remote learning situations, that may be tough for some kids. Plus, not all friends attend school together.

One thing the Redditors did not mention but that is important to note is that some experts are encouraging parents to move away from revoking privileges and toward more natural and logical consequences. For example, if a child makes a mess, they have to clean it up. But regardless of how you discipline your child, respect is important—and that can include compassion for their friend's feelings.

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