setting a curfew for teens

Remember being a teenager with a curfew? Maybe your parents set a curfew at 10 p.m. — or, as you got older, midnight.

And there were consequences. If you missed the appointed hour, you lost driving privileges or screen time. Or your phone was confiscated. Or you experienced the dreaded, “you are grounded one day for every minute late.”

What Is a Curfew?
A rule requiring people to remain indoors during specified hours, typically at night.

For many of us, curfew brings back memories of negotiation — perhaps begging for more time or racing home when we knew we would be late. Or maybe you always made curfew, showing responsibility and earning increased independence.

Now as a parent, you’re looking to set a curfew. You want to teach more about responsibility and following a schedule. There’s a lot to consider.

There’s no universal requirement when teenagers should be home, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following.

AgesSchool NightsWeekend
12 to 13 years old7 or 8 p.m.9 or 10 p.m.
14 to 16 years old8 or 9 p.m.10 or 11 p.m.


Ultimately this is your decision. But letting your teen in on the discussion can bring more cooperation in adhering to the schedule.

Many experts recommend setting a curfew because it sets clear boundaries for your teen. Your expectations should be realistic and based on the event itself. Be rational.

worrying parent

Look at the event. Is it a movie? A dinner date? A party or a school athletic event?

Here are some do’s and don’ts on teen curfews.

The Do’s

Here are the things you should do and consider when setting a curfew for your teenager.

Know the Law Where You Live

Juvenile curfew laws are local ordinances that prohibit people of a certain age (usually under 18) from being in public or in a business establishment during certain hours. Does your state, city, or town have a law that restricts teen driving during late night hours? Do your local laws say when teens must be home?

It’s your responsibility to follow the law, whether you want to set a curfew or not.

Know Your Teen’s Sleep Needs

The AAP recommends at least 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night for adolescents.

Teens by nature have a sleep-wake cycle that can shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty, the AAP says. Teens are biologically driven to stay up later and sleep late. But a lack of sleep can cause physical and mental health problems, increased risk of car accidents, and a decline in academic performance.

Know when your teen needs to rise and shine and set the curfew to allow for that eight- to nine-hour sleep sweet spot.

Stick with the Plan

Enforce the curfew and create consequences if it’s broken.

In their book “Raising Resilient Children,” Dr. Sam Goldstein and therapist Robert Brooks say the consequences should fit the crime and teens should be aware of the rules and consequences in advance.

The set rules lessen the possibility of children perceiving rules and consequences as arbitrary and unfair. If your 17-year-old breaks a 12:30 a.m. curfew and comes in at 1 a.m. saying he took his friends home from a party, you may want to cut him some slack, Brooks says.

But Brooks cites a dad that calmly told his son in that scenario: “Next time you decide to drive friends home, you have to start early enough for you to be home at 12:30 as we agreed upon. You know the consequence. You can’t go out on Saturday night next week.”

Be Flexible and Reasonable

Make the curfew based on the event and be aware of who’s driving, where they are going, and the transportation issues.


Involve your teen in the initial curfew discussion and mention the agreed upon time before they leave the house. Make it clear that if there is an issue, you expect a call before the curfew.

The Don’ts

Here are a few things you might want to avoid doing when setting a curfew for your teen.

Don’t Negotiate

After agreeing upon a time, stick to it. If curfew is broken, there should be consequences.

Don’t Overlook the Good Stuff

If your teen shows good self-regulation by consistently making the 11 p.m. curfew, you may want to think about 11:30, says child psychologist Madeline Levine.

But if that child never gets in on time, you can be assured that your teen is not prepared for that next step. “Sometimes they’ll fail, and sometimes they’ll come in late, but it’s happening under your roof where you can process with them what happened last night,” says Levine.