My 15-year-old son is browsing on his phone at 3:00 a.m. What should I do?

I'm pushing 60 and one of my favorite bad habits is looking around online on my phone in the middle of the night, when I should be sleeping. If I wanted to break myself of this habit in the name of better sleep hygiene, I'd make sure I had a really good alarm clock (right now I use my phone) and the charging station would be across the room, though still in my room.

Telling a 15 year old what they can't look at online is kind of pointless.

You want them to independently understand consequences, have their own sense of right and wrong (including some shame about bad things,) do good self care, be able to think for themselves and stay curious, all at once, and their brains aren't developed enough to do all that without bouncing off of the walls once in a while. If using up bandwidth is a problem there are ways to shut down the phone when he's used his share. If online porn or hate is a problem, find a non-punitive reason to move his desktop into a public space - consider a family computer space where you can do LARP style gaming as a group, because that might be fun. If you find out he's uploading porn of himself in the middle of the night, the phone goes into a lockbox overnight.

And don't worry too much. They do get through this.


Go to bed.

Here is the thing. He's fifteen. If, at three AM he's at home count this as a win! There are many parents that would like to be in your place.

He does need his sleep but at this age his developing brain is uncoordinated and not making the best decisions. And he needs to learn to do this. For this he needs your help.

There is little you can do with a fifteen-year-old other than threaten him with not helping get his driver's license the next year. Do you really want to go there? Do you want to go nuclear with him?

Probably not.

What you can do is hold him accountable for his decisions. You have a little chat with him explaining you don't think this is the best way to handle his life, but anything not inherently dangerous (drug and alcohol use or other risky behaviors) you won't interfer.

However, you won't put up with him not doing the things he needs to do during the day. You will assign consequences for failing to meet expectations. Explain that if he fails to perform the assigned consequence you will take away his phone.

Awake at 3 AM but can't get up to go to school?

Assign a consequence. Maybe the first time it happens he has to wash the dishes or clean the kitchen that night. Second time, same for three nights, and so on.

Not getting through his school assignments because he is tired.

Assign a consequence.

Stick to your guns.

If you are persistent you will wear him out.

But for that persistence, you need your sleep.

Go to bed.


I disagree with the majority of the 80 or so answers here.

I have a 14 year old son who just 4 days ago, was seen on his phone at 2:30am. Here are some solutions that can work and others that typically do not work:

Can Work;

  1. The charging area is NOT in his bedroom, it is in the kitchen or some other area away from his room.
  2. The new charging station is in your bedroom.
  3. Phones are not allowed in the bedroom after a certain time.
  4. Turn the router off at night
  5. Change the settings for your router to block usage from time A to time B.
  6. Restrict data usage through the phone service provider for his phone.
  7. Take his phone away for 1–2 days as a consequence for breaking your rules.
  8. Seek professional help for addiction (or addictive behavior).

Does not work:

  1. Having a chat with him and telling him the following after he has been caught 3 or more times.
    1. Review the rules about cell phone usage after bedtime.
    2. How he makes you feel when he breaks your house rules.
    3. Explain how staying up so late will affect his school work, grades and stamina.
    4. He is being disrespectful.
    5. You own the phone so it's your rules.
    6. He will be punished if he does it again.
    7. Tell him you are not being unreasonable since othere parents have the same rules for their teenagers.

Let's review why these do and do not work.

Just last week, I was awoken by a noise I heard 2.30am. I then saw my 14 year old son running past my bedroom towards his room. He was obviously returning to his room after returning one of the electronic devices (phone or chrome book or kindle) to the designated charging area. "Note to self" I thought, "I'll handle this tomorrow." (kids were home last week for winter break).

Later that morning (late morning since he woke up after 11am after being up half the night), he and his 12 year old sister were sitting at the breakfast table when his sister claimed loudly that she saw him up at 2:31am and it was obvious he was returning one of the devices (she also woke up and saw him, dashing past her room). For the next 6 hours, he denied it and claimed she had been mistaken 2:31am for 12:31am. He kept trying to convince her that she was so tired, that she missed seeing the number 1 making the time 2:31, not 12:31 and he accused her of lying about the time so he'd get in a lot of trouble (although 12:30 is still a problem). After listening to this back and forth for the first hour, I had an idea.

Since I already knew who was telling the truth and who wasn't, I wanted to see how far my son would take his denials. So I told the both of them that one of them was lying and it was up to the liar to come clean or they both get their phones taken away indefinitely. They continued in trying to punch holes in each other's claim and my son doubled down on his position. My daughter began getting upset with the thought of her phone being taken away. Then my son left the area for a few minutes and I used that time to tell my daughter that I already knew she was telling the truth and that I too, had seen him at 2:30am. I asked her not to say anything and to continue the bantering as I wanted to give her brother every chance to come clean. I also told her that if I get angry at her or threaten her with punishment, that I was just playing to see what he would do and that she was not in trouble in any way. She agreed to play along.

And so it went. Denial, denial, denial, up until dinner time when I had enough and confronted him in his room. I asked him 3 times, yes 3 times if he wanted to tell me anything else or was he sticking to his story. He stuck to his story, that his sister was lying.

I broke the news to him that I knew he was lying all along and after I told him what I knew, he did not deny it any longer. He was busted. He had broken the rules regarding electronic usage, he lied to me, and he threw his little sister "under the bus" in order to save his own skin. The use of devices and access to the internet had hooked him.


Watch this episode on netflix "black mirror season 4 episode 2 - Arkangel" by yourself.


He's going to be an adult in three years. Don't you think it's better for him to learn what happens when you stay up late at night now, rather than when he's out of the house? He's not an adult yet, but he's not really a kid anymore either.

I'm trying to remember what the rules were when I was 15.

I remember having a laptop in my room. I think my phone at the time was a flip phone, so I couldn't use the internet on it.

I remember being up at night on the internet. Usually looking at porn or watching anime. I don't remember how late I stayed up. I think it was usually much early than 3am, but may have been more like 4 on occasions. I remember my parents knocking on the door sometimes telling me to go to bed. Sometimes I would listen to them. Other times I would put a towel over the crack below my door to block the light so it would look like the lights were out. Which is actually a trick that my mom taught me she used to do, she probably regretted it later.

But I was on ADHD medication, which made it hard to sleep at night. Is your son on something like that? That could explain things. Why don't you try talking to him? Ask him if he feels tired during the day and suggest that he wouldn't feel so tired if he got more sleep.


Ask him to forward you the URLs. You wouldn't want to miss all the good stuff. Kids today always know the best links.

Look, I have 3 boys and they have all had access to the internet from before they could walk. Trying to shelter them from stuff online is absurd. We have talked with our boys about what is appropriate and inappropriate and it is up to them to develop a core set of values and to exercise good judgement and discretion. Do they always make the best choices, no, but then neither do most adults. You can get all self righteous and tell them not to do something but that is self-defeating.

My two youngest boys 15 and 11 spend 90% of their browsing time on YouTube. Each of them consumes about 300GB, yes that is GigaBytes of video content MONTHLY. Yeah the guys at the AT&T store were shocked too. But they know almost anything about anything. There is no indication that what your son is looking at is bad for him. Just have to actively participate in the process and discuss it with your son.


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