The Washington Magazine

The Washington Magazine

Parenting in the Digital Age: How to Help Your Kids Set Boundaries With Technology

We live in an increasingly connected world, and it’s more difficult than ever to keep your children safe online. With any positive change in technology, though, there are always new dangers to deal with as well. Your children face the risk of cyberbullying, identity theft, predators, and many other threats from the world wide web — and sometimes even from within their own homes! To ensure your kids have the best possible start in life, learn how to raise them in the digital age by setting firm boundaries about their technology use. This guide will help you do just that!

Step 1. Teach your kids how to put down the device

Sitting alone at a table with your phone, you’re not having a conversation and you’re not playing with friends or interacting with family. You may be attached to your device, but it doesn’t belong to you—it belongs to everyone else who wants a piece of your attention. It’s important for children and teenagers to learn that being online doesn’t make them invisible. Spending time unplugged will help them develop boundaries and make them more mindful about when they use technology.

Step 2. Reassure your kids that they are not missing out on anything

Now that you understand your child’s need for attention, it’s time to reassure them. Technology has made access to information so simple and readily available that your kids will believe they are missing out on something if they aren’t online 24/7. Reassure them that is not true, tell them stories about when you were growing up and how fun life was without access to instant communication.

Step 3. Monitor what your kids are doing with their devices

Talk with your kids about what kind of content they’re using and what kind of conversations they’re having online. If you find something you don’t like, explain why and discuss how it could be hurtful or dangerous. Explain why and how you feel that behavior is inappropriate. Encourage them to tell an adult if they see things online that make them uncomfortable, just as they would if someone had made those comments at school or on a playground.

Step 4. Create a media plan for devices

It’s important to set guidelines for your kids, and know where they can use their devices and when. For instance, you might say that electronics should not be used during meals, homework time or before bed. Be clear about time limits and stick to them by charging devices at certain times of day. Establish consequences if boundaries are crossed. If your children violate a rule with their devices, take away those privileges (such as video game time) until they’ve proven themselves responsible again.

Step 5. Create rewards for using electronics responsibly

When your children are little, set ground rules for how long they can use electronic devices per day. If their homework is done and they’ve had plenty of outdoor play time, you can reward them with extra computer or television time.

Bonus Tips for Limiting Screen Time

To help your kids set boundaries with technology, incorporate these tips into your daily routine. It will take a few weeks for your kids to see results, but as they do, you’ll be surprised by how much calmer and more energetic they feel after hanging up their electronics. One year from now, you may even find that screen time has become a thing of your children’s past. Here are some positive habits you can introduce today.