#AskParentHub – What’s the best way to set tech boundaries?

December 20th, 2019

Question

I’m giving my 12-year-old an iPad and my 14-year-old a smartphone for Christmas. They’ve never really had devices before, and I’m worried they’re going to spend all of their time on the holidays glued to their screens. What’s the best way to introduce some rules?

Answer

When kids get new tech for Christmas or for their birthday, it’s a great time to talk and set some new rules and boundaries together to help make the experience of a new device a positive one for the whole family.

No matter what your child’s age, they should have a say in what the rules around tech are. It doesn’t mean you as the parent don’t have a final say in the rules and expected behaviours, but there’s a far greater chance your kids will stick to rules that they have had a role in creating.

Your final rules around tech use need to be agreed by everyone. This means finding ways to compromise and making sure that your kids are on board and feel respected.

These tips can help you with the process of creating some rules. But remember, rules may be broken, so you might also want to have agreed consequences for when the rules haven’t been stuck to.

 

Have the conversation straight away

You can use the arrival of new technology as a trigger for a chat. You can say, “Before we set up your phone/console I’d like to have a 10-minute conversation to set some rules together about how it will be used.”

This is a great strategy, as your kids will be very keen to have a conversation quick-smart so they can start using their device.

 

Explain your non-negotiables

Before you start the chat, explain that you are still the parent and you have a role in keeping them safe and providing guidance. Be very clear on your non-negotiables. Good non-negotiables to support your children can be:

  • The device isn’t allowed in the bedroom (great for supporting better sleep)
  • No devices at the dinner table
  • Keeping to agreed time limits

Be flexible

Your kids will have reasons for wanting to use the device at certain times of the day or in different places. A lot of these will be related to connecting or playing with friends. You should try to respect this and find ways to accommodate it. For example, try to be flexible and give kids some independence over time. It could be things like:

  • Give them an allocated amount of device time for the weekend they can use as they wish, such as five hours for the whole weekend.
  • Agree on days they can do certain activities, such as leaving video games to weekends.
  • Create dependencies, such as finishing homework before using a device.

Be flexible and meet their needs, but also be clear on your own expectations. Linking the device to positive behaviours is a good approach, such as having a chat with a family member before you start playing video games after school. This way you promote the types of activities you want your child to experience, rather than just focusing on controlling the amount of time or access they have to their device.

Stick it on the fridge and revisit

Whatever rules you come up with, keep it manageable. You need to be able to remember them and keep track. Three to five rules may work best.

You should write them down and read them out and make sure you and your kids are happy with them.

Importantly, if the rules are constantly not working, revisit them. They should help your kids and family have positive experiences with technology, and be a living and changing set of rules. Even if they are working, have a 10-minute chat every 3-6 months to check in.

Complete the Dolly’s Dream DigiPledge

Don’t forget to add a DigiPledge to the Christmas stocking if your kids will be unwrapping a new device.

The DigiPledge teaches adolescents how to be safe online, using real-life examples in a fun quiz. The best part is you can do it as a family, and a great way to talk about how to use new devices.

Take the DigiPledge now. It’s just $10 per family, and all proceeds are donated back to Dolly’s Dream.

#AskParentHub is a regular column providing expert information and support to reader’s questions about parenting and cyber safety.