Technology and Kids – How Much Do You Allow?

Written by Desiree Townsend

I believe that parents should be adequately equipped to help their kids maintain healthy usage of technology.

There are many reasons why this topic appears consistently in what I am reading or talking about with my social circle. As we develop more technologies and dive further into the unknown, we need to have more tough conversations with our kids (and each other!) that we didn’t have twenty—even ten—years ago. I call it parenting sensibly.

I remember the first computer I used which had internet access. In the late 1990s, no one, not even my parents, knew the dangers that lurked behind the door of the world wide web. By the time my senior year of high school was drawing to a close, boys in my computer class were searching for adult content on the Web, and I was peering over their shoulders in disbelief.

My son is thirteen-years-old. At five-feet-seven-inches, he is taller than me now. While he is easily one of the funniest kids I know, he has the classic teenage attitude where he pushes back at everything we throw at him. He firmly believes he should have strict privacy when it comes to his cell phone and web use. My husband and I vehemently disagree with him on this matter. We believe that our children’s activities should be frequently monitored, and without notice to them, which grates on our son’s nerves.


Last May, we took our family vacation to Colorado Springs. My husband and I made a conscious decision to keep the younger childrens’ phones and other web-enabled devices with us at night, only allowing them to use their devices for bits of time throughout those few days.

What we noticed most was increased participation in family activities, like when we watched the movie “Frozen” with other KOA campers and when we visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. They were fully present, engaged with us and each other. I remember getting ready for bed the first night we stayed at the KOA. We had been listening to the thunder, lightning and heavy rain that had been going on for hours. Three out of our four kids were lying in their sleeping bags and, without the distraction of their electronic devices, they were forced to wonder if they were going to live through the night. My husband and I were only hoping to sleep some.

It was during that trip when we learned that life lived is best offline. Oh, sure, our kids bickered, and my husband and I rolled our eyes at the bickering; but, we had many laughs. I think the best laugh we had was when we were all sitting in the living room of our cabin and a woman and her dog tried to come in through the front door. Despite our then-16-year-old daughter pushing back on the door in an attempt to keep the woman out, she continued to press forward until she snapped out of her trance and apologized quickly before turning away! We count that experience as a victory thanks, in part, to our decision to limit the use of electronics during that trip.

Since then, we keep the phones with us at night, continuing to make sure that their behavior online is reflective of our family values. I dare you to ask my kids what my number one priority is. They know me best, so they will answer, “Safety first!” every single time.

About the author

Desiree Townsend

Desiree is a thirty-something Christian wife and mom living in the suburbs of Boulder, Colorado. Her passion is inspiring families with teens to build strong family ties. She and her husband founded Bold and Brave Today, a health and wellness site where their real-life bariatric stories guide families with teens to celebrate meal time, enjoy a bold and brave lifestyle, and build strong families.

Desiree believes in: being kind, working hard, developing stable values, staying down-to-earth, and being accessible. Her voice is friendly, humble, honest and (mostly) practical. She strives to create real connections and friendships with her audience and she is sincerely interested in hearing from you.

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  • I don’t have kids, but so many of my friends with children are constantly struggling to find ways to keep their kids, especially teens, off their devises. I think an evening shut off time is really good. I’ve started shutting my phone completely off at 8 p.m. Otherwise I’m checking emails and Facebook until I go to bed! I find if I completely shut it down I’m not too keen on firing it back up and tend to leave it off until morning.

    • @heidikerrschlaefer:disqus It’s certainly a balance in allowing our kids to have some freedom but not too much. We have recently started using an app that shuts off everything (but phone and text) at bedtime and during school hours and we have seen marked improvements in their attitude/behavior. I know that I’m the same way. If I can turn off my phone before bed and stay off of it until morning, I am far less grumpy when I get up and I’m not tossing and turning all night thinking of ALL.THE.THINGS.

  • My kids are younger and so do not have phones yet (although my oldest is over 12.) She does have a kindle fire, but at night, it stays down off her bed. We will have to make firmer rules about amount of time when they get older. They have to use any device in a public area, where I can see it if I wish to see it.

    • @tammydoiel:disqus We have them stay in public areas and if they are using their phones and go to their rooms for any reason, they are expected to leave the door open. No cell phones are allowed in the bathroom, either. 😉 All of this is mostly to maintain accountability and integrity in our home, especially as they are really just learning how to handle themselves in real life!

  • It’s harder for us to find this balance, since two of my kids require devices for school, and with honors classes that equates to a lot of homework! But, to me it’s more about quality vs. quantity. I don’t count their screen time hours but I do check up on what they’re doing. If it’s just mindless, I make them shut it off and find something else to do. With summer coming, I’m looking forward to more “unplugged” time for all of us!

  • Thanks for these great thoughts! I wrote a post called “Why My Son Does Not Have an iPhone” because I think it’s just crazy some of the little kids that have phones way nicer than mine! It’s all about balance though. I admit I love my smartphone and do use it all the time. Our teens have smart phones and we have been careful about what we allow. We have a Family Technology Agreement that everyone in our family signs. I created a printable version on my website. It’s downloadable here:

    • Thanks for commenting, @sherryaikens:disqus! I tend to justify my own time spent online as being part of the business, but it’s just busy-work; spending too much time on Facebook et al. We’re all a work in progress!

  • Very nice post. I deal with this with my younger children (and my boyfriend’s children who can be on gadgets 98% of the day). I tell my three youngsters (my oldest daughter is almost 24) quite frequently to put down the phone, get off of the computer and now turn off that tablet. My 8-year-old daughter just received the tablet for her birthday and is about to get a phone. My 10-year-old daughter just received her own phone (the girls and their older brother were sharing) and she is fascinated with the updated technology. (I think their old phone was at least four years old. Maybe five.)

    I put time constraints on certain apps on my daughter’s tablet and she is none too happy; although she deals with it semi-good naturedly. She loves to play, draw and read and I still want her to do those things. So far, I don’t have too much of a problem with them on devices before bed, but as soon as I do I’m going to take a hint from your post: all tech gadgets spend the night with me.

    • Keeping the devices at night makes a difference in our family, @disqus_jQZo91YI9f:disqus. It’s amazing to me how quickly attitudes improve when they get a full night’s sleep and aren’t online all day, which is so easy to do — especially during summer break! Keep us posted.