Why are teens (and pre-teens) notorious for taking long showers? Is it because when they were younger, they used to spend so much time with “bathtub crayons”, “foam soap” and “waterproof musical instruments”, that they’re simply used to “staying in”?  Just when I thought my kids were the only ones who think water is limitless and free, I’ve discovered there are many more out there just like them.  In honor of Earth Week, I thought I’d do a little Internet searching on “shower timers”—  I remember seeing one once in a “green products” store, a shower head that shuts off after pre-set minutes, and thought it might be time to consider buying one.  


A typical “shower scene” around our house: I’m at my desk late at night and my teen has just gone upstairs to take a shower. I hear the water running as I finish up my work, and 10-15 minutes later as I head up to bed, it’s still running. I glance in her room, and there she is, sitting on her bed, fully clothed, listening to her Ipod, “waiting for the water to heat up”.  I walk toward her bathroom, declaring, “I’m turning the water off now.”  She rushes past me, protesting loudly, “No! I was just getting in!”

“Yeah, it looks like it,” I say.  (In my mind, I’m picturing our water meter clicking to the beat of The Black Eyed Peas or whatever it is she’s listening to.) She blocks my way.  “Seriously!” she says. “Get out of here or I won’t get in!”

After brushing my teeth, I return to make sure she did get in (and that she remembered to turn on the exhaust fan).  Seeing it’s a yes answer to both, I tell her good-night, wondering how much longer her shower will last, knowing I’ll probably be fast asleep before it’s over.


My younger daughter isn’t a whole lot different.  Whenever she decides to take a shower in the morning, she often takes so long, she’s late to school.


So it was an enlightening ride on the information superhighway. I found lots of discussion board threads where a parent says something like, “I have a teenage boy who stays in the shower every night until we force him to get out.  What can I do?” I even found an online poll (and took it)  that asked the question, “How long is your teenager’s average shower?” Out of 253 responses, 67% (171) fell between 16 and 35 minutes, which is where I cast my vote. (According to ehow.com, that can be over 50 gallons of water! Ouch!)  (I felt real sorry for the 10 people who said their teens showered for “One hour or more”) L


The advice on what to do was varied.  Ehow.com gave three ideas from least expensive to most.  The simplest kind, a little hourglass-type “sand timer” encased in waterproof plastic, is often given away as a freebie by city water departments or other businesses (they’re available online for about $4).  Several years ago we got a free one from Home Depot that suctions to the bath/shower wall.  While this type of timer might work for some kids, kids like ours, daydreaming in their steamy water wonderland, will simply turn it over again once they notice it’s run out.  Ehow also mentioned mechanical shower timers (The Shower Manager, www.showermanager.com, can be pre-set to 5, 8 or 11 minutes, and then it shuts off the water for awhile) and there is a digital, flow shut-off device available as well.  But both these last two options are pricey—the Shower Manager is currently $111 (on special) and the digital kind, made in Australia, is over $300. (I think they are usually bought by…hotels or hostels?) Elsewhere online I found people discussing a.) the possibility of putting a coin-operated box on their shower, just like at campgrounds (very pricey and complicated, but funny—“Kids, you must now use your allowance to take a shower!”); b.) garden hose timers (wouldn’t work—a teen could figure out how to re-set it); and c.) a pretty simple solution– turn off the hot water valve on your water heater when your kid’s shower goes past a certain time limit.  While I’d really like to try that Shower Manager, Andy and I are too cheap to shell out the bucks for it even though one online parent said it was “worth the peace of mind”, and I’m sure in water restricted areas, it’s even more worth it.  (Showermanager.com does have a drawing for a free one every month so at least I can try that route!)  I think I might also try the “turn off the hot water valve” approach, at least when I’m awake.   (That seems like a good “natural consequence”-  I can say, “Oh, you know that’s what our water system does when the hot water is used up– it takes a long time to heat back up.”)


Otherwise, I’ll just have to sleep easier remembering what I learned once when writing a newspaper story about underwater sports—a noted brain researcher who I interviewed thinks regular immersion in water, for at least 20 minutes at a time, can make a person smarter and more creative.  Ah, no wonder my kids are so wacky and talented!! J