On Christmas Day, kids across the world rushed to their living room to find a nondescript, squarish box with their name on it waiting under the tree. The device they’ve been waiting, begging even, for. (Cue angelic, four-part harmony fit for the heavens.)
Ah, technology. The thrill of it is quite unmatched as are the possibilities. For some parents, devices promise a cup of hot coffee or another simple pleasure that has gotten infinitely more complicated with kids underfoot. For other parents, devices serve as a tutor, an outlet for creative expression, and a family reunion all rolled into one. We can’t begin to wrap our brains around what life would look like without the versatile power and influence technology has in our families. We don’t even want to.
But as parents, we’ve been charged with keeping our kids safe, and technology is included in that. If your kids got a new device recently, it’s important everyone is clear on how and when the device will be used. Here are some things to keep in mind when setting boundaries with your kids’ new technology:
Set clear expectations. Technology is fun, but kids need to understand that with it comes a lot of responsibility. No matter the phase your kid is in, boundaries help them feel safe. Setting up safeguards and expectations for how their new device should be used may elicit complaints, but clearly communicating what you expect now is better than confusion later. Be very specific when setting expectations.
Set parental controls right away. Technology opens doors your kids might not be old enough or mature enough to walk through. Before giving them access to their new devices, get familiar with the device yourself and set up those parental controls before giving your kids access—limit their app purchases, set up kids’ versions of their apps, and get alerts sent to your device to monitor their activity.
Set time limits on use. Your kids could spend hours on their devices, but that doesn’t mean they should. Decide how much time your kids should be spending on their devices and communicate that clearly to them. If necessary, enforce screen time limits with an app’s help.
Check in regularly about what your kids are seeing online. Even with all of our intentionality, sometimes things slip through and our kids end up seeing and interacting with something they shouldn’t. Ask your kids regularly if they’ve run into anything unexpected while on their device. Make sure you stay calm when they’re talking to you—you want them to feel comfortable coming to you about this topic.
Consider weekly tech breaks. Devices are scientifically designed to be habit-forming—research shows the same parts of the brain fire when someone is on a device as when they’re experiencing pleasure of some kind. Make sure to factor in consistent, weekly breaks from technology (this is something that could be helpful for you too). And while you’re taking a much-needed pause, plan an alternative to how that free time will be spent.