Not long ago, I wrote an article entitled Who’s in Control: Technology in Our Lives. I received several questions or suggestions about “rules” for technology. As a therapist, I often need to address this issue with parents.

As I mentioned in the last article, kids “need” technology. Schools use it more and more for homework and projects. Events are communicated via email, text, Facebook, etc. Technology is useful. I “google” everything. It’s not just a website for me, it’s a verb. I use YouTube and apps in therapy to get points across (to all ages). 

However, technology, like all things, has a power that needs to be harnessed and used wisely.

What’s that, Spiderman? “With great power comes great responsibility.” You bet. So here are some suggestions for technology in our lives.

1) Privacy. (Or lack of…)

The PARENT is the ADULT, the one in charge. More than once, I’ve come across this dilemma: “But my son/daughter bought the phone and pays for the minutes. I can’t take it away.” Why not? If your child is being irresponsible with technology, what’s stopping you? 

Tell me which is better: a) parent removes technology because teen is being irresponsible and is then subject to the teen’s temper tantrum or b) teen gets away with everything because parent doesn’t set rules or follow them and then gets pinned with a legal charge or gets into a vehicle with someone he/she only met online because he/she never learned? I know it’s extreme, but it happens…and it’s happening more often.

Talk to your kids about the risks of technology (e.g., health, predators, etc.), as well as the advantages (e.g., education, communication, etc.).

And set rules about usage. Technology is a privilege, and it’s probably one that you, as the parent, provide/pay for in some way. You have the right to monitor their devices until they are adults. And in the State of Nebraska, that’s 19 years old, folks! 


2) Responsibility.

I tell parents “Make your kid show responsibility BEFORE you get them something they will need to take care of.” I mean, seriously, how many times have I heard “I’m going to get them a dog so they can learn responsibility” and how many pets out there would starve if the PARENTS of those “learners” didn’t feed them?

Technology is much the same. If your kids won’t show responsibility before getting a phone, IPad, tablet, etc., what makes you think they are going to be responsible with technology and make wise decisions when it comes to downloads, texting, etc.? Irresponsible until proven otherwise; make your kids prove themselves.

3) Bedrooms.

First, there’s a lot of research out there about technology in the bedroom and how brains are affected by it. TV’s, phones, radios, etc. all cause disruptions in our brain waves, especially if there are lights and sounds involved. Bedrooms are for relaxing and recharging our body, mind and spirit.

Secondly, there’s an issue with monitoring. I have clients who pretend to sleep until their parents go to bed, then it’s game on, literally. TV and video games at 3 a.m. and then they’re tired the next day. After some time, their entire sleep cycle is messed up. And, please, don’t forget that many gaming systems also hold the capability of connecting to the Internet and streaming. 

It’s healthier and less tempting if technology is out of the bedroom. Some parents have their kids “check in” phones at night (e.g., chargers are ONLY in a certain area). The phones are then kept in an area where they can be monitored by the parent. I realize some people, including me, use their phone for it’s alarm. That’s cool…there are apps out there that allow parents to shut down calling/texting/online usage and turn them back on at designated times.

4) Dependence.

It’s been widely rumored that today’s younger generation is not self-sufficient. I’m guilty of sticking my kids in front of the “babysitter” (aka, TV) so I can get stuff done. However, I’m starting to regret this because I often hear “I’m bored. Can I watch TV? Can I play on the computer? Can I play on your phone?” What ever happened to using one’s imagination to entertain oneself? And once imagination is dulled, so are problem-solving skills.

Kids are also getting into the habit of being rescued, just as much as parents are in the habit of rescuing (because we care). For example, a child forgets his/her homework, sends a text to Mom/Dad, and SuperParent brings the homework to school. Therefore, negative consequences are prevented and all live happily ever after.

A little too much sarcasm? My bad.

Honestly, there are kids that this works. It only happens once. However, more often than not, this scenario gets played out many times. Why? Because the child is rescued and never learns from his/her mistake. And then he/she goes to college or into the workforce…and…

5) Maturity.

We’ve all seen it…a 16-year-old who chooses to act like a toddler. I’ve seen some amazing tantrums from teenagers in my office when parents begin to set boundaries. I’ve also seen amazing tantrums from 7-year-olds who believe they need a phone.

So assess your child’s level of maturity before purchasing or allowing personal technology. Can he/she be responsible? Does he/she follow directions/rules? Does he/she respect him/herself and others?

This rule doesn’t mean younger children, or those deemed not-yet-mature-enough, can’t use technology UNDER SUPERVISION. There are many excellent learning apps out there for toddlers. A 9-year-old can call a friend to arrange a play date. A 13-year-old can partner up with an online person to play a game. 

As the parent, it’s your responsibility to check in on your kids, even the ones you’ve “appraised” as responsible. Kids, it’s your parents’ responsibility to keep you as safe as possible.

6) Time.

I once read that kids should be limited to 30 minutes of TV a day. If you are the parent who can do this, you’re amazing and I’ll take any pointers you can offer.

For the rest of us, this seems daunting, less if you aren’t home because of activities, and more if you count phones, gaming devices, tablets, and technology-in-school.

Just set boundaries upfront. If your kids are old enough, let them help you with the boundaries. Some can be more flexible (e.g., “You can play the computer for 30 minutes or separate it into  two 15-minute times). Other boundaries will need to be firm (e.g., “Your phone has to be on the charger on the kitchen counter by 9 p.m.”).

7) Appreciation.

Again, technology is a privilege. You can help your kids understand and learn appreciation for what they have by saying “no” to the newest craze.

As parents, we want to provide the best and most amazing things for our kids. Some may even say there’s “pressure” or “competition” among adults to “show off” through our children. For example, little Johnny just earned a nice phone but the new X-Phone was just released and he REALLY wants it. After all, it has the ability to a, b, c, d, etc.

Teach your child to wait and appreciate what he/she has. As we know, technology changes constantly. So you have the new X-Phone today, what about the Y-Phone tomorrow? 

8) Access denied.

Set up “no tech zones” or times in your house. For example, the dinner table is used for mealtimes and family chats or games. No technology allowed. The bedroom, as mentioned before, is another place that technology should be limited. 

One reader commented on my last article that, in her household, they have no technology Monday-Thursday. Awesome, and I’m coming over to get pointers!

The trick is following the rules as parents. I’m guilty of answering texts during mealtimes. Also guilty of eating in front of the TV, uh, regularly. Also guilty of eating and checking Facebook while making my kids stay at the dining room table. Of course, there are exceptions because we are the “responsible adults.” You have to decide what your adult exceptions are and the reasons behind them. But be prepared for kids to fight with “But you do it…”

9) Control.

Use parental controls. Period. You can limit what the kids watch on TV. You can deny explicit or violent content.

Set controls on the computer, like a password that YOU must enter before they can use it. One of my families had their technology set up so that at 11 p.m., everything in the house shuts off unless you have the password…and guess who has it. 

There are many apps out there, some free, some not, that can help you monitor usage on devices, as well as enforce boundaries.

Get passwords from minors. I know, I know…for every email account you have the password for, they have 10 other accounts (that’s where honesty and consequences come in). Request their passwords for all devices and services, if you allow them to have personal accounts. Then, use the password to check in on their activity. If you don’t know how to monitor a device or service, do what I do…google it. 

Don’t let naivety be an excuse as a parent.

10) Consequences.

Our children will make mistakes…that’s okay because we’re monitoring them. We want the small, learning mistakes now so we can, hopefully, prevent catastrophic mistakes later. 

Set consequences for your kids and make sure they understand what happens when rules are violated. They are bound to try sneaking extra time in or saying something on social media that shouldn’t have been posted. That’s where we step in so they can learn from their mistakes.

Be careful you don’t go overboard with the consequence. We want them to learn, not plan sneakier ways or become defiant.

That said, the most effective consequence is the one that fits the “crime.” Therefore, with technology, you will likely need to confiscate the “misused” device for a set, appropriate period of time.

Remember, while you can welcome input from your children, it’s your right as the PARENT to set the rules and consequences.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.

God Gave Him Bigger Feelings

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy on playground, color photo

He came home from school last week and asked, “Why do I get so angry but my friends never do? Why am I not the same?” And it broke me. Because he is passionate and intelligent and kind and intuitive and beautiful. He didn’t always seem different. We never paid attention to how he would line everything up in play. And we would laugh it off as a quirk when he would organize everything dependent upon shape, size, and color. He was stubborn, sure, but so am I. And then COVID happened, and we attributed the lack of social skills...

Keep Reading

We Have a Big Family and Wouldn’t Change a Thing

In: Kids, Motherhood
Four children in front of Christmas tree, color photo

I have just had my fourth baby. A baby who wasn’t expected but very much wanted and very much loved from the moment we found out. When we told people we were expecting, the response was underwhelming. The stream of intrusive questions would then ensue:  You already have your hands full, how will you cope with four? You’ll need a bigger car! Where will they all sleep? Don’t you own a TV? You know how babies are made right? People seemed to have such a strong opinion about me having a fourth child. RELATED: We Had a Lot of Kids...

Keep Reading

As a Mom I’m Far From Perfect, But I Hope You Remember the Joy

In: Kids, Motherhood
Happy mother and daughter on the beach

Sometimes, I think about the future when you are grown and I am gone. When all that’s left of me are photographs and memories. I know what the photographs will show. I took most of them, after all. But the memories I’m less sure of. I wonder what will stick with you after all that time. How will you remember me? One day, your grandkids will ask you about me. What will you say? Will you tell them I was always distracted? Will you remember that I looked at my phone too much? Will you tell them I didn’t play...

Keep Reading

Being a Daycare Mom Can Be So Hard

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Woman holding boy on couch, black-and-white photo

Dear daycare mom,  I know it’s hard.  To get yourself up before them, to make lunches, to pack the bags, to get yourself ready.  To go into their rooms, where they are peacefully sleeping, and turn the lights on.  To struggle to get them breakfast, get them dressed, and get them out the door.  I know it’s hard.  To have a morning rush when all you want to do is snuggle up on the couch and ease into your day.  RELATED: When a Mom is Late To Work To feel like you are missing out on their childhood at times...

Keep Reading

The PB&J that Saved the Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Table with three plates of PB&J sandwiches, color photo

It was one of those days.  One of those days when your pants are too tight, you wake up with a headache, and the kids’ rooms are disasters at 8 a.m. It was one of those days when I had to physically go into Target for our groceries since I didn’t have time to wait for pickup—I think that alone should sum up exactly the kind of day it was.  The kids were hangry. The toddler was, well, toddler-y. RELATED: Toddlers Are Human Too—And Sometimes They Just Need Grace Two minutes into our shopping trip, she had kicked her light-up rain...

Keep Reading

One Day He’ll Love Another Woman More than He Loves Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding baby, color photo

To Benjamin, my 16-month-old son, I am everything. I am the first person that boy looks for when he wakes up in the morning and the last person he wants before he goes to bed. If he is in a room full of people he loves and I am not there, he will search for me.  If he has a problem, mommy is the solution. I am the answer to his cries. I feel confident in saying that I am the most important person in that little boy’s little world. I love it. It is an honor and a privilege...

Keep Reading

To My Sister, Thank You For Being the Best Aunt To My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood
Aunt with three young kids

“Do you have the kids’ basketball schedule yet?” you texted the other day. I sent back a screenshot of the calendar, and within an hour you responded telling me which game you’d be coming to. It was a simple exchange, but I was overwhelmed with gratitude for your love for my kids in that moment. It’s something I think often but don’t say nearly enough: thank you for being such an amazing aunt. Truly.  I know it’s not always convenient. You live three hours away and have a busy, full life of your own—but still, you show up for your niece and nephews...

Keep Reading

In Defense of the Stubborn Child

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy hanging over dock, color photo

“Lamp. Lamp. Laaaaamp,” my 2-year-old son screamed while stomping his feet. Tears were running down his face and snot was dripping dangerously close to his mouth. I put on what I hoped would be a soothing, motherly tone, “Okay, just calm down.” While trying to maintain eye contact, I slowly reached toward the tissue box. This must be what the greats like Jeff Corwin, Steve Irwin, or the Kratt brothers feel like when facing a volatile animal in the wild. The sound of a tissue being pulled from the box caused the crying to stop abruptly. His eyes flitted toward...

Keep Reading

Dear Stepdaughter, You Aren’t “Mine” but I Love You as My Own

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter hug

First off, I love you. I wasn’t there the day you were born or when you got your first tooth. I wasn’t there when you took your first steps or learned to pee in the potty. But, I have loved you since the day we met, and I’ve been there for every moment since. I’ve given you baths and eventually, taught you how to shower on your own. I’ve brushed your hair, clipped your nails, and taken care of you when you’re sick. I’ve tucked you into bed and kissed you goodnight, held you when you’re sad, chased away your...

Keep Reading

I Was Meant to Be a Boy Mom

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and three boys, black-and-white photo

When you’re a little girl, you dream of the day you can pass all your Barbies and dolls on to your daughter and continue that same form of make-believe, to play dress up, do their hair, and go shopping with . . . at least I did.  You grow up, fall in love, get married, and decide to start a family and all those same emotions come rushing back about all you’ll do with your baby girl. You cut open that cake and the blue frosting peeks through, and you’re so excited that you forget all those girl dreams. You...

Keep Reading