Managing Your Child's Technology Use

Content developed in partnership with Boys Town, a national network of youth care and healthcare programs. 

Remind kids that use of technology is a privilege, not a right.  Owning a cell phone or laptop isn't written into the U.S. Constitution. Your child's use of his gadgets is up to your discretion, and if he is abusing his privileges, remind him of that. Remind your child that they're not entitled to their iPhone and enforce the rules that you set. 

Set a family media policy—decide who can use which forms of technology, when and where it’s acceptable, and how you will monitor usage. This includes all members of the family. If Dad spends too much time on his iPad during family time, call him out on it! A new trend is the "phone stack" at dinner or other events - everyone places their mobile device in a stack in the middle of the table and the first person to grab theirs from the stack before dinner is over is responsible for the tab! If your tween can't exactly pay for dinner, implement other consequences like extra chores. 

Establish consequences, both positive and negative, for appropriate technology usage. If you catch your child researching a subject they're interested in, praise them for it. They should know that you see their devices as beneficial to them. If they fail to follow the rules, then make sure that you have communicated a set of appropriate consequences to them. Again, enforcing those consequences is the most important part. 

Establish “technology-free” zones and times in your home when you all “unplug” and concentrate on communicating with each other and enjoying each other’s company. This would be a great time to start a family game night or sit around the TV watching a sporting event or movie together. Make this a routine, and your kids will love it more than their iPods, we promise! 

Help your children achieve balance in their lives by encouraging them to stay physically active, enjoy reading, and learn to relax and have fun without electronics. If your tween's phone is always buzzing, encourage them to see their friends in person. If they're spending hours on Facebook or Twitter, get them involved in activities that they can socialize during.

Watch for the warning signs of bullying, sexting, or other inappropriate behavior. If your teen or tween is being secretive about what they're doing online, it's possible that they're doing something they shouldn't be. Check up on your child's phone and laptop randomly to ensure that they're staying safe. Also, have a long chat with them about the dangers of cyberbullying, sexting, and other online communication.