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Kids, Devices and Boundaries

by Jul 25, 2018

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Like many parents of school-age kids, we have a constant struggle in our home when it comes to digital devices. While our daughter professes that she can “stop any time,” that’s not the behavior that we see.

Jean M Twenge noted in her Adolescents, Devices and Sleep.

To help set boundaries in our family, we have employed a number of tools. Some of them we learned about through friends, some we learned about through our own research and others we learned about through conversations with mental health professionals. It’s our goal to help other parents by sharing what has worked for us, but setting boundaries on kids’ devices, like pretty much all of parenting, is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The Bedroom & Bathroom

When we gave our daughter her first digital device, we explained that bathroom was off-limits for devices. She was much too young to understand the concept of sexting, but we explained in language that she could understand that photos could be taken on an iPod and therefore, the iPod was not allowed in the bathroom because that’s a private room. We also limited usage in her bedroom to during the day and with the door open.

As she has gotten older and is now a young teen, this has become even more important. Which brings me to…

A Central Location

We use the kitchen peninsula as the central charging location where her devices must stay during homework and bedtime. That constant ding ding and buzz buzz of the notifications is very distracting. We monitor her phone during homework time and if a friend texts an urgent homework request, we allow her to respond then she gets back to work. She has breaks during homework and responds to texts and such during that time, but after her break, the phone goes back to the peninsula until homework is done. If she had the phone on her desk, homework would take all afternoon and all night.

Dinner Time is Family Time

Mornings are a rush in our house as I am sure they are in most, sometimes we eat together and sometimes we don’t. However, dinner time is sacred in our home. We eat dinner together almost every night. During dinner there are no devices allowed. If we are out to eat at a restaurant, devices get put away in purses or pockets. Yes, there are those occasional times when devices get pulled out at a restaurant (“Oh mom, can I PLEASE show you something on my phone??”), but we try our hardest to avoid this.

No Need for Constant Connection

We find this one is really hard and after speaking with a mental health professional, we realize this may be somewhat generational. Our daughter’s generation is that of digital natives. She and her peers grew up in a world that knows only of being constantly connected. So when we try to explain to our daughter that she doesn’t need to have her phone in her face all the time, she really doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. We have to remind her to put down her device and go do something else – read, draw, take the dog for a walk, etc.

The Bedtime Window

We spoke to our daughter’s pediatrician when she was very young about screen time and she recommended no screens after 7:00pm. We have carried that forward and try to limit screens to that cut off, if possible. There are instances when our daughter has to work on homework after that time so we have enabled nighttime mode on her computer. For help on how to enable nighttime mode on your devices, visit our Tutorials page.

Parental Control Apps

We use a Parental Control app to manage how much time our daughter has on her devices each day. This helps to remove us a bit from being the bad guys and gives her some control on managing her allotted time. We also use the Parental Control app to manage the time windows in which she can start using her devices in the morning and must stop using them at the end of the day. We tried out a number of them before launching WebSafeAcademy and have used that learning to provide unbiased Reviews for you. Most developers have versions for both iOS and Android with some also offering apps for Amazon Kindle.

Conclusion

To recap, we use a combination of methods to provide boundaries for our daughter and her devices. We have assigned a central location where her devices must stay during homework and bedtime, we model good behavior during family time, we use a Parental Control App and we remind her to go do “off device” activities. If you would like more info on Parental Control Apps and which one(s) may be suitable for your family, check out our Reviews. If you need personalized assistance with setting up parental controls, installing an app or making your home more web safe, we also offer¬†One to One instruction via video conference.