Why is setting technology limits with our kids so hard?

As I prepared to write about the topic of technology limits, it is difficult because I do not want to come across as judgmental because as a mom, I know limits are important, but enforcing them is a battle and it is hard.

Parents, I want you to think back to junior high. For most people, junior high is terrible. Junior high was no different for me and I am 41 years old, but I still remember that we were not kind to each other in junior high. We were mean to our classmates. I remember prank calling people, putting glue on a chair, people punching others behind the teacher’s back and one of my favorite memories was the time we convinced the whole class during break time to all put David on the top of our math assignment. The assignment was hard and most of us knew we would have to do corrections, but if we all put one kid’s name on it then maybe teacher would throw them all away. I’m pretty sure that is not how the teacher responded. I do remember that at the end of every day I went home, and I had little to no contact with classmates until I returned to school the next day.

If you were in junior high in 2018, I can almost guarantee that many of the experiences would be the same. Students are still mean to each other. In full disclaimer, when I was in junior high, we were not mean, we were “funny,” but it was at the expense of our classmates. In junior high today, students make sarcastic statements, have looks, and still do goofy things but there is a big difference between today and in the 80’s, even the 90’s.

Students are not going home and unwinding, the device in their pocket is buzzing close to 20 hours a day.

Your child may not be the one sending a snap chat at 1AM, but I’m pretty sure they have at least one friend that is awake and sending things in the middle of the night. If a child has a bad day, and they all have bad days, but because of cell phones, they are not learning to decompress or unwind. I believe that is part of the reason we are seeing high rates of depression and even suicide in teenagers today. We are hurting our children emotionally because they are not getting a mental break from drama amongst their peers.

Limits starts with toddlers and it goes all the way until they are 18. I cannot remember the last time I went to the grocery store and didn’t see a toddler sitting in a grocery cart with a cell phone or iPad. In America, we struggle setting limits.

What do technology limits look like?

Under the age of 12, an electronic device should not be a routine, habit, or even a daily occurrence. If you cannot say no when they are young, how will you say no when they are 13? It is very important that children learn how to do things for themselves, learn how to use their imagination, be active, and have conversations with others.

For everyone else, limits are just as important, and you have to make a plan that you can enforce. I know there are a lot of “recommended” charts are out there but shred them and create your own and ease into it.

Here are three starting ideas for you to build from:

  • 1. Have tech-free hours:
    • Create a rule that from the hours of 6-8PM all technology will be put into a drawer (this includes mom and dad). The first night we tried this, it was terrible. People wined, complained and there were no fun memories created. Now, it is not questioned, and we generally enjoy it. More family memories are made when we are tech free. Sometimes we make cookies, watch a movie together, play a board game, or just let everyone do their own thing.
  • 2. Implement an internet filter:
    • Limits are hard to enforce, and I want you to ask yourself: “If I had access to the internet when I was 14, what would I have looked up?” Your child or teenager will search it if they have unlimited access to the internet. You need to get a filter that either blocks certain things from being searched or notifies you when they are searched.
  • 3. Create a tech-contract:
    • If your child has any type of technology, why not create a contract. Make it simple but make it clear:
      • Technology (xbox, phone, iPad, etc.) is not touched after school until homework is done.
      • Technology is not touched until your chores are completed everyday.
      • No technology is allowed at the table, in your bedroom, etc.
      • Personalize it based on what your child can handle and what makes sense to the needs of your family.

Remember that if a contract is created, it must have a line with the consequence if a rule is broken.

God gave us the blessing of being a parent, and I know firsthand that it is hard some days. Just remember that you are raising the parents of your grandchildren. I once had a wise woman challenge me to think of the difference of being an authority and being a best friend to your child. If you are the authority for 18 years, you will have a best friend for life. If you have a best friend for the first 18 years, your child will struggle with everything for most of their life.

Kari Smith
Pregnancy Counseling, Adoption Support & Congregational Services
Lutheran Family Service

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