Teens & Screen Time Rules

Parent Q&A

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  • screen free social life for 15 y.o. boy

    (5 replies)

    After getting to a very scary and dark place last spring with screen addiction, depression and a lot of anger -  our son has been outside and off screens all summer and it feels like we have our kid back.  We know that once school starts we are going to have to be wise about how maintain the progress.  I would appreciate hearing from families that have advice on how to foster a screen free social life for a 15 year old boy.  Anything you have seen work would be great to hear about. Thanks

    Both my kids are just super active in their respective sports/performing arts and dont have timr for screens even if they wanted to. My son is on swimteam and martial arts and has chinese school on saturdays. Ive also put all their devices on a separate network, blocked them from the main one and it turns off the wifi + blocks apps such as you tube etc. I use mycircle app to manage this. I think if you can get him active in things his passionate abojt thats half the battle of screentime.

    We haven’t managed to get to “screen free”. Instead we limit the time. No gaming on school nights, password locked computer and auto shut off on the computer when he does play, auto shut off on his laptop and phone, confiscating his phone for a week at a time if there is a major breaking of rules. He does exercise quite a bit too, which helps with balancing out time on screens. It’s not as good as screen free but giving that his school work is 100% on a laptop and that much of teen communication is by phone, it’s the best we’ve come up with. 

    The only way we have been able to manage this in my family is by taking total control of the screens. May be more than you want to do but it has eliminated the depression, anxiety, and hostility we were formerly living with.

    1. Phone gets handed to kid on his way out the door to school (no headphones included).
    2. Phone gets handed back in to parents upon return from school. Arguments that phone is needed for academic or social purposes in the evening are ignored. It has been SO BAD for our kid to have evenings on his phone we have concluded not having it available in evenings is, by far, the lesser evil.  Also, he had a 4.0 last year despite his protests that he couldn't possibly get the group projects done without his phone in the evenings.
    3. Computer is handed to kid for homework after school and is used only in highly trafficked area of house, never in bedroom, basement, etc. No games or social media is allowed on computer on weekdays. Homework only.
    4. Computer is returned to parents when homework is done or by 10:00pm.
    5. On weekends, assuming no weekday rules have been broken, kid gets 2 hours of game time each day on computer and 3 hours of phone time. Two hours of each weekend day also must be something outside–go for a walk, go to the Y, play basketball in the park.
    6. If kid goes to a friend's house, nothing I can do about it. I assume it will be 8 straight hours of screens. I try to at least require he walk to the friend's house if it's within 2 miles so he gets a bit of fresh air.

    Implementing this plan involved a week of screaming, crying, glaring, hateful commentary on our parenting, and then, having realized we aren't negotiating, he gave in and we have our child and our lives back. Your mileage may vary.

    My son is 15 years old too, and he successfully leads a screen-free life. I think it helps that we’ve always been a household w minimal screens: It may be more difficult for a kid who grew up differently. Anyway, my son spends a lot of time on sports & physical activity: He plays on his high school basketball team and also on the baseball team; similarly (especially before the pandemic), he would swim laps at the YMCA in downtown Berkeley. With friends in the neighborhood, he does a lot of biking: They go down to the Marina, or they bike to UC Berkeley to hang out here near the creek. We live really close to a great park w facilities, so he plays pick-up soccer games there, also tennis and basketball. When not doing physical stuff, he plays music: he has had 6 years of piano lessons, and now is taking guitar lessons at his high school; so he always needs to practice music. The friends also play chess/board games, and build elaborate lego sets. My son is allowed to go to the movies w friends, and we watch shows as a family— so it’s not completely “no screens” in his life; and of course he uses computer for homework. But his cell phone does not have internet (it’s a GABB brand phone) — only texting, phone calls, and photos. I highly suggest joining a gym — to socialize around sports, working out, swimming, etc. Also, encourage him to get involved at school in things like theatre, clubs, sports, music, etc: there is a lot of social interaction that happens around the many practicies and rehearsals for these activities. Good luck! 

    Sports sports sports!! Tennis, baseball, fencing, swimming- anything physical he can do twice or 3x week or every day! 

  • When a child/teen blames their mom for all their problems, just because mom doesn't allow them to sit all day in front of screens, does this have a name? Is this some kind of syndrome or disorder that has an official name? Trying to find some help but I am not sure what exactly I should be searching for? Any ideas?

    Hi, I think it’s called being a kid/teen during/post Covid. My 14-year-old 8th-grader would like to lay in her bed all weekend and after school watching Netflix and YouTube. Plus some texting and calls…add to that a new opposition to healthy food and all her old favorites and refusing to do her chores and a hair-trigger defensive reaction to anything I say. And yes, nothing right now is her fault and I’m (mom) to blame for everything.

    For me it’s lonely and exasperating and infuriating. I have firm screen time rules that she complains about endlessly. I just keep hoping for other interests to kick in. Sometimes I think we ALL are depressed with life’s pressures for perfection and throw in bad air quality, fires and the threat of power outages, the recall election and many other crazy things. 
    Sending patience and please take care of yourself. 

    Sounds like you are having a really hard time with this issue. I totally understand because kids have so many distractions such as video games, Netflix, and social media and we want to see them being productive and active. I actually don't have an answer for you and I am not a psychologist. I don't know it is a "named" syndrome, but there are predictable dynamics at work here. I know that communication can break down between parents and kids. Have you evaluated the quality of the communication you use to explain your feelings about their behavior? While it was over 40 years ago when I left home, I was very angry with my parents and blamed them for a lot of my issues because they were always telling me how to live my life and their love for me seem so conditional on whether I would be the person they wanted me to be. They just could not listen to me or let me figure out what was right for me. Certainly, kids under 13 need a lot of direction, but by the time they are teens, they want to know they have more autonomy in how to run their lives. With my own teen/young adult kids, I have realized the only thing I can do is to work on my communication with them. I have working on using active or reflective listening skills. A good author to check out is Thomas Gordon who wrote "Parent Effectiveness Training". 

    I think it’s a desperate move to get you to change your mind, and to hurt you. I think it’s very common — so common that it doesn’t have a name. 
    My son often used it, and I weathered it because I felt confident about the decision I had made. 

    I thing they call this condition "adolescence".  >.<
    I feel your pain! Unfortunately, I think it's a completely "normal" albeit very unpleasant behavior/ part of their psychological process.

    Hey, this could be me you are talking about (the kid's Mom who is blamed for everything)! The situation bites and I feel I can't win. I'm blamed for 'ruining' their life, when most of the time, our only real problems stem from us just trying to get them offline and into the mix of our life and family. My child is 15.

    Maybe the child is angry at mom.  In which case, therapy for child, or therapy for mom, or both, might help.  If a kid is angry, they can blame mom for everything (from personal experience).  And maybe a trip to the pediatrician to make sure there is not a medical problem.

  • Hi, I'm guessing there's been alot of dialogue on this topic but I'm putting it out there. My 16 year old daughter is very responsible, gets her school work done, her chores (which are fairly minimal). Before the pandemic, I had a pretty strict rule that devices couldn't be in the bedroom at night, but that's gone out the window and with school online and less to do, the screen time is all the time. And I'm exhausted and feeling at a loss about what limitations I can and should put in place, since I know this isn't good for her brain or emotional health.  I never allow devices at meal time but that's like 15 or 20 minutes out of our day. I get that this is an unusual moment in time, but I feel like I should be doing more to pull her out of the screen at least a little more than I am.

    Peaksy--- it IS difficult to manage kids away from the seductive screen.  And science says it does affect young brains.  Others, here, with kids still at home, going thru what you are, will be helpful.  I have grandkids. The eldest is 22.  He was on the computer/his phone all the time. ALL the time.  Then he went away from college, and now, in his last year, he's back home, studying online. The gods seem to be against those of us who are concerned about this sort of thing. But, in his case, with the Pandemic on his own, he's become interested in wood-working. He looks at youtube instructions every day.  So far, he's made a book case, an organizer, with plans to make a chest of drawers.  He says he doesn't have time for video games, facebooking, twitter,  or 'googlin' around'.  Hooray!  Could a hobby help your daughter?  Possible to explore something together--or even hire someone to explore with her?   --- If you want to be more miserable (just kiddin') well, just in case, then check out "The Social Dilemma" film, Netflix. We couldn't watch all of it 'cause it's such a downer.  My grandson, was happy I'd seen it and he told me that he's trying to get his father to see it too.  Ha!  How's that for a turnaround?  Unfortunately, his dad voted for Trump, gawd! hard for me to believe.  Anyway-- grandson feels dad "needs to see the light" about online mind-bending.   I wish you all the best!

    I am a parent of a 18 year old.  If you have time during the week, then take a walk around the neighborhood before or after dinner or do something together on the weekends.  I would not change anything that you are doing inside your home right now because it is a special situation but I would get her outside more.   We have a lake nearby so we walk around the lake or we take short hikes and combine it with getting coffee or having a picnic.  If she is outdoors more she will have less time to look at her screen. 

    Hi Peaksy, my daughter is 17 and I am having the same struggle.  Does she have an iPhone? If you have control of your daughter's apple id account, and/or you use family sharing on Apple, you can set screen time limits for your daughter at night by turning off all access.  If you don't have her on Apple's Family Sharing, you can require her to give you access to her phone, and then you set the Screen Time limits with a secret code.  I have read that kids do figure out how to get around the Screen Time limits with certain hacks, etc.  What I have done on occasion, and may start doing, is to turn off WiFi for her device through our router (which allows us to set WiFi limits for particular devices), and I have manually gone into my AT & T app and turned off her cellular, and then turn it back on in the morning (it's a hassle, but takes about 2 minutes to turn off and turn on).  My own daughter has seen a sharp decline in getting her work done and her grades (she's a senior) so I have no other choice but to limit her time.   If you're feeling like you  need to limit her screen time, then you probably do need to do it, and require her to accept her limits.  Their phones are a privilege, not a right in my view.  I get that they need their phones for social and school reasons, but setting limits (especially now, rather than waiting) is a necessity in my view, and I wish I had done it sooner.  Good luck, these are really hard times for the teens and parents. 

    Hi Peaksy - I could have written the exact same email!  We've faced the exact same problem, and I'm sure it's a very common concern about parents.  We've wrestled with it, and here are a few thoughts. 

    First, I hear a lot of teenagers are on their screens a lot because of the coronavirus situation: they're bored, maybe even a bit depressed, and don't have anything else to do.  I hear many teenagers even acknowledge they wish they weren't on their devices so much, but they can't think of an alternative.  Therefore, telling them to stay off their screens is difficult because there's nothing to replace it with.  So you might consider instead helping them find other activities.  For example, we set a rule that our kids had to spend 30 minutes a day on some physical activity - running, walking the dog, whatever, we even allowing dancing to the Let's Dance videogame.  Or see if you can develop any interests they have - join some sport (there seem to be some available these days like running clubs or martial arts), start a garden.  It depends on their interests.  For kids who are especially social like ours, we helped him plan socially-distanced picnic with friends in a local park.  Maybe regular bike rides with friends?

    Second, 16 years old is pretty different from say 12.  At this age it seems appropriate to let them make their own decisions and manage their own time, even if we don't agree with their choices.  I have to bite my tongue a lot when my own 16-yo is sitting around on their phone for hours.  But I try to remember that they're learning from this.  I've learned that nagging just doesn't work.  What has helped me is to not think of them as a kid who needs to be corrected, but rather something like an adult who has their reasons for things.  Simply finding a way to talk to them about how they feel, in a nonjudgemental way (that's important!) helps me to hear what they're thinking, and understand them better.

    Third, as much as I dislike screens, they also have their plus sides.  For one thing, teenagers are social creatures, and screens are how they connect with each other these days (especially during the shelter in place).  What does your 16-yo do on screens?  If she's chatting with friends, maybe that's age-appropriate.  I try to focus on the good things, like the fact that they're still getting good grades.

    Finally, it depends on your parenting style how strict you want to be - you might make and enforce house rules, or only suggest them and let the kids choose.  We've thought about setting no-screen time for parts of the day, but taking responsibility away from a teen is a bit dangerous to our relationship, since I doubt they'd thank you for it.  Another idea is to put the information is front of them and help them think about it - you might watch "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix as a family, a documentary about how addictive social media is, and discuss what your teen thinks about it.

    Good luck - screen time is a big concern these days, and it's not an easy one.

    I can recommend the book "He's Not Lazy" by Dr. Adam Price.  It's a helpful perspective on how teenagers think, especially ones that seem to "opt out" and spend all their time on screens.  Our kid also spends way too much time on his devices, and we've tried different things, and this book helped us to understand him better and approach him a bit more sympathetically, and hopefully maintain a good relationship while we figure out the screen time problem.  Good luck.


    I too had more limits on my 17 year old son’s screen time prior to the pandemic. I took the phone every night which also allowed me to occasionally check texts and Instagram messages.  Now with the phone acting as his main outside  lifeline I struggled to enforce limits.  But now I’ve been able to set limits using Comcast’s internet  “pause” feature for the phone he uses. It allows you to choose a device for “pausing” for 2 or 3 hours or until you “unpause” it. I give him a set number of hours when school and homework are done everyday. Then I “pause” the phone 30 minutes before bed and it stays that way until the next day. The pause blocks all access to the internet. He can play games he’s downloaded so not perfect but it does help. I don’t pause the laptop and find his focus is texting and Instagram.  You know your daughter and this might not work. For my moodily son, it’s now funny when I say “pause” he then stops the grumbling and negativity and takes care of his responsibilities. Good luck and continue being the adult. We all have limitations and learning how to manage them now is key to becoming an adult. 

    “Pause” mom

    I'm in the same boat, but have come to the conclusion that because my kid is doing really well in school, helps out when asked, gets enough sleep, is responsible and responsive by phone when he occasionally gets out of the house, I'm going to let it go.  If he wants to be on his screen a LOT, it's ok.  He plays interactive games online with friends, watches YouTube videos, and generally just hangs out.  If his grades slip, or he becomes belligerent, or other issues arise, I'll rethink.  I just think that these kids need to cope any way they can, and connecting with peers online is just about all the social interaction they have these days.  I'm not going to limit that.  

  • Zoom school and screen limits, help!

    (1 reply)

    My 12-year-old (very strong willed) 7th grade kiddo has a lot of negative stories about herself as a student from some trauma she had a while ago and now she's really hating school. Having witnessed her these last few weeks of Zoom school, I can tell she gets into fight or flight when the work gets hard, and she spins out and starts really hating on school and herself. It takes her sometimes several hours to recover from these episodes, and homework remains unfinished and she just gets further behind.

    YouTube and her online gaming friends are the only thing that matters to her now, and she fills every non-school minute (and even many school minutes) with screens.  I have started sitting next to her and prodding her and gently redirecting her, but now that the academic work is starting to get harder, it's getting more challenging for her to focus and/or feel a sense of accomplishment. She's started blowing off homework so she can get back to gaming.

    Over the summer, we relaxed screen limits with the caveat that as long as she takes care of her responsibilities, it's OK, but that's clearly not happening. She doesn't want to exercise, or do art, or even hang out with some of her friends who are not screen obsessed. It is getting scary. Last year she started cutting herself over screen battles. She is on medication which is helping but she still has pretty intense outbursts.

    Clearly I need to put limits back on screen time, but curious to hear from other parents who have dealt with this situation what has worked and what hasn't. I am thinking of having her earn all of her time after attending and focusing on class and finishing homework, but how to ensure she doesn't just blast through to get to the screen? Also she's used to watching a short video between each of her Zoom classes and she says they help her de-stress which they do, but also they distract. How to avoid battles all day long here? And most importantly, how might we help her feel more empowered as a learner? Thanks in advance for any insights.

    I just figured out how to totally block internet connection from my child’s device at set times using our Eero router app.  That only allows viewing of whatever tab was on the screen prior to the pause, but any refreshing or clicking out will take that page away as well. To us, taking away internet takes away a lot of problems. 

  • We are struggling to set and enforce effective limits on how much time our 14 year old can spend on youtube and on her iPhone.  I know it’s hard for everyone during quarantine, but I wondered if you successfully did this, what your strategy was.  If you know of a therapist, or had someone assist you, or know of other helpful resources, I wud appreciate knowing about them. 

    We also have a 14 year old. We allow 2 hours a day with the phone at the same time each evening and on weekends we add 2 hours a day playing games on iPad. 

    Enforcing this is simple. We say the phone and pad need to be handed in to parents after the time is up (as opposed to parents having to beg or demand he turn it off). If he is late handing it in he loses 15 minutes the following day. It only took one 15 minute loss before he became meticulous about the hand-in. 

    This is may seem overly rigid for some parents but we came to this amount of screen time and these particular consequences after a year of non-stop battles over the phone. We saw that our child would literally choose to not eat, not bathe, not speak to anyone in the family, never leave his room if he had the option of being with a screen instead. 

    Because of this we ignored all of the protests about how we were ruining his life and he would have no friends and how boring and meaningless his life would be.

    None of these disasters he predicted came to pass and now we have a normal, relatively happy teenager again. 

    Yes, we are struggling with this too, as most of us probably are. We have had the best success so far with the iPhone parental controls that can set screen time limits. We find having a technological way of limits that happen on their own is way better than keeping tabs on usage ourselves and trying to get our teens to comply.  If you and your kid both have iPhones, you can set up Family Sharing, if you haven't already, where you're the Organizer or Parent and they are the kid.  Then you can set Screen Time limits (different ones for different apps) and Downtime (a schedule when all apps become inoperable).  The kid can request extra time if they run out and you can approve it for a length of time or deny it.  We found that making up the limits collaboratively helps them have buy-in. It doesn't work perfectly, but it helps.  It doesn't help with computer use, however.

    I have a 14 and 16 year old.  I'm interested in hearing others' responses, but this is what we've done.  This system is in response to our 16 year old being completely addicted to screens to the point where she (unbeknownst to us) would routinely stay up until dawn bingeing Netflix, You Tube, Tik Tok etc for 8+ hours straight and then sleep until 4 in the afternoon.  Now we allow them three hours of screen time each per day, but each hour has to be earned.  They get one hour for waking up by a certain time, one hour for going outside and doing something active for at least 30 minutes, and one hour for doing an agreed-upon academic activity like a math worksheet.  We have limits on their phones and the computer so they can't use them unless we unlock it.  And we take all the phones, laptops, iPads, Nintendo switch controllers, etc. and put them in a tote bag under our bed every night after we learned that they figured out a way to have all the screen-time limits "reset" at midnight.  Texting and listening to music is the only thing I leave unlocked on their phones - during quarantine I don't want to take away their one opportunity to connect with their friends, and so far texting has not been a problem.  I honestly feel like screen time is like heroin sometimes, by the way my kids will do literally anything to try to sneak it and completely lose their minds when we set limits on it.  Good luck, it is SO hard and we have had to be extremely strict with this plan, but it has worked for us and we feel like a relatively normal family again.  When school starts we are going to limit screens even further, ugh wish us luck...

    Are you just limiting use of the phone?  Or are you providing something else for you teen to do?  Makes no sense to limit time and offer nothing to do in exchange. 
    We haver four kids.  Neve limited or restricted use.  We believe not limiting screen time had a positive effect.  Allowed them to be comfortable with technology, be informed about Internet scams and people who might want to cause them harm, which is allowing them to develop their critical thinking skills.  This has allowed them to easily spot conspiracy theories and not become a victim of a cybercrime.

    But if you want to restrict Internet/iPhone use the only way to do that is to take the computer and phone away.  If you try to impose any restrictions through software your kid will just go online and figure out how to defeat it in less time then it took for you to set it up.

    Did we make the right decision by not limiting screen time?   Our kids graduated from UC. Berkeley, Brown, Sonoma State, and the other is at UC Davis?  Is that success?
    One more thing not limiting screen time did was burn our kids out on games.  Yes they played games, but then they reached a point where they lost interest and hardly play them anymore.

    Let me give you something else to consider.  I am college professor teaching STEM classes and dual enrollment classes at the high school.  The students who are very confotable with technology have a much easier time in my classes compared to the students who had limited access to technology.  Students struggle with the subjects I teach which is hard enough.  But the ones who had limited use of technology not only do they struggle with what I'm teaching them they also have to learn how to use the technology at the same time.  It is so frustrating for the students.  I see these students struggle and every semester I lose students became they aren't comfortable  with the technology.  And I lose more women then men.  And it usually far more devastating for women.

    Hope you give some thougth to what I have posted.

    I have a successful college student and I never limited her screen time, but she had to finish her homework, sports, and chores before she could lay around and watch videos. She had some missteps along the way (oops, and still does sometimes), going to bed way too late because of tik tok and then having to rush off to work and take a nap later. She basically learns her own lesson when that happens, which is a much better result than me enforcing it. I always let her know that after her required duties were completed that her time was then her own. Plus, we are now on shelter in place, what is your daughter going to do? Go on a walk by herself? Perhaps a daily requirement would be that all of you - as a family - go on an hour walk every day, pull weeds, make cookies, read a play.

  • Parental Controls on 17-y-o's Laptop?

    (5 replies)

    I have a 17-y-o heading off to boarding school for the first time - entering as a junior.  The primary reason my teen is going to boarding school is for a better fit - this is a bright teen who is floundering in the local public and private school systems.  I'm hoping a change in environment, a school with supports for gifted w/ ADHD students, and routine and structure implemented by someone other than parents will be a good thing.  

    Like a lot of teens, mine is completely distracted and consumed by technology use.  The boarding school will manage this to a point, but I'm thinking it would be a good idea to have parental controls in place as well (we've had them in place on devices all along to some degree of usefulness).

    My question is this: what parental controls on a MacBook have you found to be useful in supporting a teen's use of the device as a learning tool, while limiting their ability to use it for excess distraction or, worse, nefarious (keeping Tor and Bitcoin off, etc.) purposes?

    This has proven to be a helpful and insightful forum for me in the past, so thanks in advance for your suggestions.

    A 17-year-old? They are at the age when it needs to be about discussion/negotiation, not parental controls. In one year your child will legally be an adult so you need to think about how to parent a person for whom your opinions are advisory.

    I agree with the post of Sept. 2. At 17, a teenager should understand your family's values, rules, and expectations around technology/social media. As your son heads off to boarding school, it's important for him to believe that you have faith in his ability to make good decisions (even if you have concerns). As a family, I would suggest that you have a frank discussion with your son before he leaves for school. You might have somesuggestions ready with apps that help kids monitor their own computer usage, but I do not recommend parental monitoring. At this age, remember that it's more important to LISTEN than to offer advice! 

    - Mother of two young adults, director of The Parent Education Series 

    I tend to agree with the above response but still, I think it's ok to set some restrictions. I'm going through this right now with my 14 year old daughter. You can enable restrictions by setting up an administrator account on her computer, and going into parental controls window. I found it doesn't do everything, but helps. Then, there is YouTube which is a beast into itself. Look on line for how to set restrictions on youtube. I'm still trying to figure it out across all devices. She was looking at pornography, super raunchy stuff and very upsetting.

    This is a battle we are all dealing with! I'm interested to read what other people say and I definitely agree that limits and controls are beneficial for impulsive teens.

    Your teen is only one year away from college.  Boarding school at 17 is more like starting college a year early than being a high school student who needs a lot of parental guidance. The rest of us parents usually get another year to make the transition from parenting a high schooler to being counselor and advisor to an older teen/young adult.  You are making the transition a year early. Let me tell you how it goes when your 18yo kid goes away to college - I've survived it twice!  You can try to give input but you no longer have the influence you had before. They can do what they like, when they like. The best you the parent can do is hope you've instilled the right values up to now, and then hope they will come to you if there's a problem. My kids were VERY fond of their computers in high school, to the point where I was locking up electronics in the trunk of the car at night because one of them was sneakily staying up all night playing games and unable to get out of bed in the morning. Once they were no longer in my house, they figured out for themselves why this doesn't work. Not right away, but by trial and error. I remember visiting my oldest when he was a sophomore at a college in another state. He was living in a house he shared with three other 19 year olds. The living room was a shrine to electronics, including an "altar" piled high with empty chip bags and bottles. But they figured out a balance for themselves, even though they did not have an adult monitoring them.  They got to class and they did what they needed to do, and they are all fine young men now, out on their own. Your kid will do that too.  

    It's not an easy transition for parents, but for most of us there comes a time when our kids have to make decisions for themselves, and it's your time now, so try to make peace with that.

  • Schools that draw screen-free families?

    (3 replies)

    Hello all,

    My 8.5 year old is homeschooling for a couple of years, and before that she used to attend a Waldorf school on the east coast.  We are looking at schools in the east bay for the fall of 2018, when she will be entering 4th grade. 

    As we emerge from our Waldorf and homeschooling bubbles, (and there was no tv available where I grew up in India) I am concerned about how kids in non-Waldorf schools use screens on playdates.

    Our home is tv-free, and our daughter has watched a handful of movies in her life. We occasionally watch documentaries. On playdates she and her friends put on plays, pretend-play, play with dolls, draw, get goofy, run around and just... play... without the use of a screen. Screens are something they just don't think about much. They don't even seem to play with board games very much - but mostly just indulge in imaginative play.

    While we are looking at progressive schools in the area, are there schools in the east bay that you find - in particular - tend to draw families that avoid screens on playdates at home? (or is Waldorf the only way to go if you want that?) We are looking at schools like Aurora, Park Day, the Berkeley School, Berkwood Hedge.

    Any screen-free families out there? And if so - how is your school working out for you as far as playdates with other kids go?

    I just want her creative imagination to be nurtured as long as possible, and am concerned about the time that screens gobble up. She will be entering 4th grade in 2018

    Thanks for your time and suggestions.

    Screen-free will work for playdates at your house (your house-your rules), but you may have to accept that other houses have different rules, about a lot of things. such as junk food, video games, bad language, etc. We were screen-free while my daughter was younger and I thought (naively, duh) that everyone else was too (and seriously this was 15 years ago!). 4th grade is a good time for her to start making her own decisions and speaking up for herself. Maybe if she is at a friend's house and the friend wants to do screens, coach your daughter to suggest an alternative.

     East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante. If no-screens is really important to your family this may be a school to consider. I have no personal experience with the school but I know they have a beautiful campus. Also there is the Berkeley Rose School. They both discourage any use of screens until middle school I believe. I'm sure meeting other Waldorf leaning families will make it easier to avoid screens while on play dates. But reality is that as she gets older it will be more difficult to control what goes on outside your home. We can only hope that the values and beliefs you have taught her so far will guide her in her choices. 

    My child attended a small school in Berkeley that had many screen-free families (also many unvaccinated children but that's another story for another time.)  We are not a screen-free family, although like everyone else in the East bay, we don't park our child in front of a screen.  Our son changed to this little school in the 4th grade, going into a class where all the other kids had been at the school since kindergarten and had formed close bonds. But he was immediately welcomed - it was a fantastic experience for him and we all loved the school - and he soon became a very popular playmate with many playdate invitations. I began to get phone calls from some of the moms asking me what our screen policy is. Their kids were telling them about video games our son was talking about (at the time, he played very benign games like Mario).

    At first I thought they were asking my advice, because we have two older kids that had been through the video craze, and theirs were all mostly singletons just hearing about video games. Then I realized they did not allow screens at their homes and they were worried about their kids being exposed to screens at my house!  haha!  It all worked out because it was a transition they would go through no matter what - children at 9 and 10 are getting to the age where they want more control over their friends and their activities. The other parents were grappling with this. I described the games my son played and the movies and TV we watched as a family - great stuff like Merlin that they had never heard of.  I invited them to come watch. I think reassured them, and gradually their attitudes toward screens changed. Some of them still kept their no-screen policy at home, and that was fine - when my son visited, the kids did other stuff or they were taken on outings like bowling or swimming.  Nobody complained!  And the parents were OK with their kids playing video games at my house or watching Merlin episodes. Of course we also have giant crates of legos, lots of board games, musical instruments, a nearby park, so it was not all-video all-the-time. But it was not seen as a taboo activity either, that they could only do at our house. Typically the kids would do a variety of stuff, both on screen and off. By the 6th grade most of the kids had acquired game systems themselves, like every other 6th grader everywhere, and by middle school they all had phones, because they were now taking public transportation, and staying late for sports and classes and etc. and they needed to have a phone. So even the kids that were not allowed screens now had tiny screens (and BTW one of these no-screens kids now has a major problem with phone addition, whereas I can barely get my high school junior to turn on his phone so I can text him!)  They are all in high school now, still good friends and they still hang out together, and are all thriving. So in summary I would say, 4th grade is a time of great change, go into it with your eyes open, but also be open-minded, and you might be surprised!

  • I gave birth to my children during the nascent age of electronics and social media.  I feel like I have been living in the modern version of the "wild west".  Figuring out how to understand and navigate the impact on family life has been a challenge.  And while historically parents have had to deal with some new invention or influence that they thought was sure to be the ruin of a generation (think of the tv in the 1950-60s), I wish I had known then what I know now.  My kids are now teenagers (one in HS and one in college) and while I haven't completely given up on placing limits, implementing limits now is very hard as, rather than having them accept the limit as a requirement for having a phone, computer, or other device, they see limits as a breach of their rights.  Here are a few things I wish I had known to do before giving them a device.

    1) I would remind them on a daily basis that their right to have a device was not purely for entertainment purposes (or their social communication needs), but so that their parents can communicate with them and know they are safe.  They can use the devices after they have taken care of their responsibilities such as homework and chores.  If the use of devices interferes with their ability to participate and contribute to activities, sports, priorities, family life, or school then the limits will be re-evaluated. 

    2) For the iPhone (or other Apple devices), I would have set up restrictions such that access to the internet was either not allowed (up to about age 12) or after age 13, was limited (no explicit of adult web access).  I would have set up the location tracking option so that I could check their location whenever I needed to.  I would have required them to use an Apple Id that I had access to so that I could monitor, if necessary, what apps they were downloading.

    3) I would have installed on the WIFI some technology to allow me to set limits remotely (such as Circle by Disney).  With it parents can control daily time spent online, set bedtimes, limit and monitor websites visited, etc. The system has a reward system so that if they do chores or homework, you can give them more time.

    What would you do or have done differently if you had known better with your family and electronics?  What are your current rules for electronics, media, and family participation, fulfilling responsibilities, etc. for your children or teenagers?  I'd love to hear others' experiences.

    I love the limits you outlined and am going to incorporate them into our current restrictions for our 13 and 15 year olds (who would claim that we have the strictest electronics policy).

    We have a rule that kids need to use their devices in common areas of the house--no bedrooms, no bathrooms. They also need to dock their phones in the kitchen before bed. We've tried to instill time limits on cell phone use but it's very difficult because they say they want to check for a friend's reply regarding plans which we allow and then time gets away and we realize they've been watching YouTube for a half hour.

    Thank you for your great ideas, looking forward to reading others' as well.

    I have an upcoming senior in high school. In my opinion, she watches way too much Netflix, but I have had no rules/restrictions on electronics and she has always been able to control herself pretty well. Monitoring TV when she was little wasn't much of an issue either. She keeps her own schedule for sleep, exercise, chores, homework and music, but after that she can do whatever she wants. I guess my advice is to, rather than to have electronics rules, have rules for the other things and the kids can use electronics when the other stuff is done.

    My daughter was the last person in her 8th grade to get a cell phone.  I thought it wasn't necessary, as I wasn't concerned about safety.  I had read all the media about kids using them too much.  Now I think that was a mistake.  It cut her off socially from events (because people couldn't reach her) and ongoing chats.  If I had it to do over, I would get her a phone when 50% of her peers had one (not 95%).  When she got a phone, she used it responsibly.  I got my son a phone at the beginning of 7th grade. Our kids charged their phone overnight away from their bedrooms so their sleep was not disturbed.  They were all for it. We told our children that we would track them if we felt it was necessary, but it rarely was (and usually because the cell phone had been misplaced.) Cell phones are the basis for children's social lives.  They are necessary for the last minute arrangement that dominate teenage meetings.  My daughter keeps in touch with friends that don't live locally, and these relationships have enhanced her life.

     My kids, two girls 12 1/2 and 15, have to have their phones charging by 9 PM. I have circle by Disney and tried to institute two periods of no Wi-Fi time  (or data time) during the summer, but found one child was more than willing to just play games if she wasn't connected or at camp. I hadn't thought that one through. The other one will just review her photos, but does have activities scheduled throughout the day that keep her busy. Neither one has access to the Internet, except for homework.

    Even with these restrictions, they are constantly on their phones and it has negatively affected family life. I applaud any and all attempts to diminish the hold that these devices have on our lives. 

    I wish I had known more about screen life earlier in parenting. I think it is important to ask yourself, what is the problem that you think screens are causing for your family and what are you trying to correct? My kids are now 17 and 19. The phone has been the big issue in my house rather than video games or TV. So each household will need different rules.  It would have been helpful to set limits before they got their phones, as opposed to afterwards. At first, the phones were not a problem, and they were never a problem for my older child. It was difficult to set new limits on a younger child that the older child did not have nor need.  I also think that if you set too many rules, you end up playing a cat and mouse game trying always to figure out if they are using their phones correctly. I dont want to demonize phones, nor the reality of their generation. The overuse of screens does not just plague their generation, but every generation. My simple rules would be: 1. charge the phones in the kitchen at night and not in their rooms. 2. Set a certain time when the phones get turned off at night. 3. No screens at the dinner table. 4. Phone off while driving. 4. Set a certain amount of time each day without the phone/screens. 2 hours?  The rest of the time, they were mostly using phones for homework, socializing, reading etc. which are ok in my book, although it took me some time to get there. It is important for me that my kids do their schoolwork, chores, activities away from screens, have real life friendships, talk about their own struggles with getting off the phone, I talk about my strategies for it with them. We continue to take vacations where there are no screens. That's all I can think of for now, but the possible rules and precautions are endless.  I suggest knowing who your kid is and how they will use screens as well as communicating your values about screens, face to face connection, empathy etc. 

  • Complexities of Limiting Screen Time

    (7 replies)

    Hello BPN,

    We're struggling with how to go about limiting screen time with our young teen who, as many teens do, uses her phone for a variety of different activities.  We feel strongly that she not spend more than an hour a day (on weekdays) watching videos and playing games on the phone.  However, we are fine with her spending more time listening to music and communicating by Facetime or text with her friends.  She likes to do all these activities in her room with the door closed, and we want to support her need for peace and quiet in her room away from her younger sibs and parents.  However, she's not always compliant with the rule when her hour is up and she's now only allowed to be texting and listening to music.  How do other parents differentiate between these types of activities, or do you have a different solution?  We'd love to hear how and when and to what degree you limit screen use.  If you child has a computer in their room (we're pondering that for the future), again, how do you make sure the kid is using it for the purposes allowed only?   (Clearly this is just for families with kids who don't tend to comply of their own volition.)  We're also eager to hear opinions from teens.


    -- Parents Fumbling in Technology Limits

    We parents all definitely struggle, if not for our children, but even for ourselves!  While I have not imposed time limits on my teens screen time, I wish I had when they were younger so they would be used to it.  We made a point to keep our kids busy with sports, outdoor activities, and family commitments as a way to limit their screen use, but there is certainly more we could do. I wished that I had made a rule that homework and chores had to be finished before screen time, and no Netflix and other entertainment on week nights. For a while we didn't allow charging of computers or phones at night in a bedroom, but when my son turned 15 and we moved to a new house, he started taking his devices in his room at night to charge.  We sort of have a rule that homework has to be done in a common area (no desk in the bedroom) so at least we can monitor somewhat while homework is being done. That's fantastic that you have put a limit of one hour.  My kids are literally spending 6 or more hours on their devices per day, as do my husband and I. I recognize that the mistakes we made were because, over time, we had difficulty enforcing our rules (especially on vacations and weekends when we parents were really busy) and then rules slipped and when we tried to reinforce, we got push back.

    Since it is so hard to always be "on this", I decide to enlist help from technology as a way to automatically enforce some of the rules: I bought a device called Circle by Disney that regulates the wifi.  With it I can put a time limit and bedtime on each device or a cumulative limit for all devices by person, and block certain websites and applications whenever I want.  I told my son that if he wanted to charge his phone and computer in the bedroom, then the internet and phone would turn off at 10PM because I have to ensure that he is getting a good night's sleep and not interrupted by notifications and the like. If he is still doing homework and needs the internet, he has to ask for more time.  The Circle is hooked up the the wifi, and is controlled by an app on my phone. I can see what apps or websites he has been using, if he tries to access websites I have been blocked, what time, etc, as it give a full history.  There was a bit of push back, but it has worked for the most part. For the phone I had to implement ATT Smart Limits so the cellular data would turn off at a specific time too.  However, if I wanted to have Circle control the phone and cellular data (not just set a bedtime via ATT Smart Limits), I would have to purchase the Circle Go by Disney app and download on his phone, which I have not done yet.  I put restrictions on his phone (through the iPhone settings) for what maturity of apps and websites he can access, he has found a way to bypass it.  Fortunately, we have a limited data plan on ATT so if he tries to bypass wifi limits and use cellular data, he will eventually run out of his monthly data allotment.  

    Of course I ask myself though, by using all of this extrinsic control, when he goes off to college, will he have any self control to regulate his own usage?  Hopefully his brain development will be such that he will make good choices and have more self control, but of course, that is not guaranteed.

    I am the mom of a 16 year old, and we've never had any screen rules, even with old fashioned TV. I never told her I have no set limits, I've let her make her own mistakes with not getting enough sleep and/or finishing her homework, or exercise, and after a few days of overdoing it on screens she seems to figure out how to limit herself. Then in a couple of months she'll overdo it and recover again. Actually, I had the same system with junk food with the same results (with no limits, halloween candy lasts for a year in our house). Good luck.


    We struggled with this with our three kids for a long time, too. We finally installed Circle, which is a device that allows you to set limits (and filters) at the router level. It's been a godsend to our home and the best $100 we ever spent. We set a limit on our son's online game playing per day, but not on other things that we don't care about. We also set the filter at the teen level, so it filters some (not all, nothing's perfect) of the most noxious stuff on the Internet. None of this replaces the conversations you have with your kids, or your relationship and what expectations you set, but it takes you out of the role of the policeman a little bit.

    Good luck!

    Dear Parents Fumbling with Tech Limits,

    I assure you that your experiences are remarkably similar to millions of other parents who are struggling with these same issues. First, I suggest you consider the "why" behind your limit setting, as this will help you set limits. I suggest the reason "why" we want teens not to live their lives in their rooms on their phones is that it deprives teens of the connection with parents primarily, but also siblings, that they need for mental health--as this generation of kids is suffering from record rates of depression, cutting, etc., as many are cut off from families due to tech overuse. Many kids are also distracted by their phones or computers resulting in poor school performance. 

    Understanding that teens struggle to differentiate between uses and are generally often not honest with parents about how they use their phones, I believe the only viable solution once kids get phones is to have kids use them outside of their rooms in a public area of the house, e.g., left in the kitchen (the same would apply to a computer). This is the solution that many tech execs employ (see the NY Times article "Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent). If your daughter complies with the rules you have set up, she can earn time talking in private with her friends in her room--do you have a land line available for her to do this as that makes things easier. You can also purchase her technologies that only offer music in her room, e.g., Internet radio or ipod shuffle.

    I understand these sound like firm rules, but the alternative of teens increasingly living their lives out in their rooms at the expense of family is wreaking havoc on a generation of teens.

    Best to you,

    Richard Freed, author of Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age

    I use an app called Our Pact, which shuts down all third party apps (social media, games, etc) either on a schedule or at your will. It's either free (limited) or very cheap, and completely worth it. The phone just turns off access to those apps on your child's phone. My son is currently being punished and we have ALL the third party apps shut down 24/7. Simply asking him to "stay away" from those apps wasn't working at all. I can turn them back on anytime I want.

    I'd think twice about allowing any kids to have a computer in their room. I believe it is better in an open environment so you can more easily monitor the content and the time spent on the computer.

    Good Luck!

    The parent who suggested that you shouldn't limit your child's access to screens gave you bad advice! In my opinion, the time kids/teens spend online is a crisis. Yes, some of it is school work, but there is a ridiculous amount of time wasted liking photos, making videos, texting, surfing the internet, playing games, etc. Some of this is okay - rec time - but a lot of it robs from family time, studying and socializing face-to-face.

    As an example, we met up with family friends over the weekend at their house. The kids are good friends and have known each other all their lives. In the past, they would hang out, talk, watch a movie, go in the hot tub, play a game, scooter, walk to town, etc. This time the kids were ALL on their phones the WHOLE time. I chastised my daughter and urged her to put down her cell, but she said the other teens never put theirs (the mom complains to me often about her kids' phone use, but she never instructed them to lay down their phones, and so they didn't). We were there for hours, and there was never any genuine conversation or interaction among the teens - just individual screen time!

    These types of situations reinforced my fear that today's youth are losing the ability and desire to interact face-to-face and the skills that develop from face-to-face communication. I've seen kids scared to talk to a teacher, worried about making a phone call, unable to have a deep conversation with a peer, etc.

    Parents, carve out some screen-free time: talk to your kids, do things as a family, encourage children to socialize without phones, let them be bored in the car, give them technology free downtime. Others have suggested limiting screen time with Circle or Our Pact. Use these tools, and don't hesitate just to take away the phone if rules aren't followed, or technology is abused. Collectively we need to help this next generation with their life skills, not just their tech skills!

    Something we all struggle, or have struggled with.  I fall somewhere in the middle of other responses you have received.  I like the idea of starting off with what is your goal in restricting screen time, and what are the various ways you can accomplish that.  I would add, what really is possible to do within your sphere of influence.  While this is different for different ages, I think it is probably less than what you think it is.  For example - putting the computer in a public space.  Our computer was in the middle of our kitchen, 2 adults at our (not very large) home going in and out, and my middle schooler still managed to go on a pornography site.  How?  multiple windows open, they are quicker at switching back and forth than you are at catching them, and unless you are going to be right there over their shoulder that strategy isn't doing what you think it's doing.  Once a kid gets older the computer filters are often too restrictive.  As one poster mentioned, kids are online for all sorts of stuff, including education and current norms of socializing.  It really is a completely different paradigm.  I'm not saying it's better or worse (my own opinion is that it's worse), but we have to be aware of the consequences of removing kids too far from the current practices of their peers.  One limit we were very strict about was that the phones and iPads live in the kitchen at night. That was what my kids were using to socialize, but then again it's possible they went on their computer - we would open their door to chek occasionally, but having their privacy is also important as teens.  I do think that it is important to set limits, even if they are routinely broken, and even if the "consequence" is minimal, or it's simply re-stating your expectations - it still helps to rein them in. But don't get into a situation where you are setting yourself up setting rules you really can't enforce - that's why tend to prefer talking about the issues and using "expectations" rather than rules. I save the "rules" for more specific and time-limited restrictions, like not being on devices when company is here.

  • "I desperately need help" My 14yo daughter went through a rough patch. She has hurt herself during school. I know internet is the culprit. That is why she became what she is today.....depressed and angry easily, because she was deprived of sleeps. She would go on Whatpad to write story all night or week...no sleep. One day she had a massive slept at school. Then it was all spiral down...hurting herself, angry with her friends, lost all friends at school. She has been seeing professionals...psychologist and psychiatrist and on anti-depressants. She's slowly getting back. However how do I deal with her when I caught her lying? She was supposed to go to sleep and have rest because she gets tired from just doing a little bit of shopping, which means no Internet while she slept and in her room, but when the closed she go back on the Internet again. When I told her dad about it and she heard it. She was angry and she starts to throw things every where.....!! She's only angry with me!! At time when she's so upset or angry she would go into panick attacked....her head rolled back and her eyes wise open....whole body went into spasms!! How do I talk to her without affecting her? I am so scare to say anything now? Thank you very much.

    Does she have internet access in her room?  It sounds like she definitely should not, if she does.  Even if she doesn't want to get online, if it's in her room, it will likely be too difficult to resist the urge.  Talk with her about moving internet access into the common spaces of the house and out of the bedrooms.  Turn off internet access after bedtime, too.  The more you can do to structure your home life in a way that limits internet use, the better.  It's unrealistic to expect her to change her behavior just by her own will.

    For the communication difficulties you and she are having, I'd highly recommend reading the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.  You can also check out baynvc.org to see if there's a nonviolent communication training happening in your area that your family could attend together.

    I'm so sorry that your family is struggling with this increasingly common challenge. My son went through something similar and it was TOUGH. I wish I could share with you how to help your daughter, but I'm not sure I have the answers. For us, my son has learned to manage it much better and ultimately he chose to give up visiting sites that kept him up all night (mostly online gaming). But, it was a process. It meant taking away his electronics and/or shutting off his access to the internet when he was late for school or neglected his responsibilities. It wasn't pretty as he "withdrew" from his addiction, but with enough time without access to the internet, he did rediscover his old interests. I also spoke a lot with him about the changes I saw in him, and helped him see that staying up all night online was having a very negative impact on all aspects of his life - his friendships, his relationship with his family, his school, his physical health, and more. After so many battles with him about his internet usage, one night he came up to me and said, "I'm quitting gaming." And he did. I will admit, I didn't think he would be able to stop without some relapses. But, it's been about a year since he quit. Why being successful on the first try probably isn't typical for anyone with an addiction, he was sick and tired of letting the computer/internet control his life. But, it took him wanting to stop for it to actually happen. Long story short - you're not alone, and it can get better. Although, I will add that addiction runs on both side of my son's family. I always wondered if he might struggle with addiction of some kind. And, even now that he has given up gaming, he does tend to obsess over whatever his latest interest is. Luckily for now, he is fixated on a more healthy and productive interest. But, he'll probably always struggle with having an addictive personality. Good luck, and my best to you all. 

    I'm sorry that your family is going through this experience. I think that the best thing that you could do is to see a therapist yourself so that you can have somebody guide you through this process. The therapist can help you understand the physical and emotional symptoms that your daughter is experiencing, any cultural differences that might be affecting the situation, and different approaches that you might try out. The situation is very complicated---much more complicated than keeping her away from the internet and making sure that she gets enough sleep. You're doing a great job by supporting her to get therapy herself and going on medications. It's a difficult situation, and you need somebody neutral and experienced to guide you through it. This is why a therapist would be best able to help you. Think of the therapist as your coach in this process. Best of luck to you and your daughter.

    You say your daughter is  hurting herself  at school, do you mean physically? If so, you should be working CLOSELY with her psychologist and psychiatrist, it sounds like her anxiety and  depression is severe and she may need more intense therapy or a medication adjustment. Have you talked to your daughter about what she is doing when she's online? Try to get her to open up to you, ask her what happened with her friends. Remain calm and open minded and really listen. Is she being bullied online (cyberbullying)? This is becoming very common especially in Middle School and can have tragic consequences, including suicide. For many 14 year olds the internet is their social world, it's likely that she is reaching out to her friends for support via the internet (probably Instagram, Snapchap or Facebook), not necessarily a bad thing! I understand you're concerned about her behavior but by cutting her off from her social circle you may make cause her to become even more isolated and depressed. I would suggest monitoring what she is doing on the internet and give her a time limit, when her time is up you keep the device until the morning. If you have the resources get into family therapy!  This is tough, best of luck

    Please don't consider this response a substitute for seeking professional care for your daughter, as if she has hurt herself, she should be in counseling with someone who is monitoring her safety and treating her symptoms. You describe your concerns that your daughter has an Internet obsession, which very well may be a tech addiction. The American psychiatric community has been slow to recognize this issue, but such addictions are recognized in China, South Korea, and Japan. Just as an adult can become addicted to gambling, kids (and adults) can develop tech addictions. The hallmark of addiction, and it fits for tech addiction, is that the behavior (e.g., drinking or Internet use) causes significant problems and the person continues the behavior.

    One reason so many kids suffer from tech addictions today is that we have lost sight of the two most important connections for kids (even teens): family and school. Instead, today, kid's 24/7 access to tech is putting them in touch with peers (and lots of others that may not have their best interests in mind) at the expense of family. It's great if kids have friends, but family provides unconditional love and investment that peers cannot. Too many kids are finding the peers/Internet contacts they depend upon leave them alone (or can even cyberbully them) when the going gets tough--cutting, depression are often the result.

    Since tech is substituted for family by many kids, if you want to decrease your child's tech, I recommend you will need to have her become more involved with family, e.g., cooking together, trips, relaxed family time when all family members are away from devices. Helping kids through this is not easy, because addiction hijacks the brain and leads to impulsive, nonsensical behavior, including the potential for kids to hurt themselves. So, again, please have her in psychiatric treatment. My thoughts are with your daughter and family.

    Richard Freed, Ph.D., author of Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age

    I've gone through similar challenges with my 16-year-old son. 

    First, if your daughter is hurting herself or having panic attacks she likely needs professional support now.  Find a good therapist who will also include you when appropriate.  You might start with her pediatrician for a general check-up and referral to a behavioral health professional.

    Second, be clear and firm with reasonable times during which internet and cell data are not available.  To make it work, the time frame may be less than your ideal, but must not seem excessively punitive to her.  For my son, it is 11:30pm to 7:30am.  Do not rely on your daughter to self-monitor, nor take it upon yourself to enforce every day.  Rather, be clear what you are doing and why, then set parental controls on your WiFi and cell service.  It is very important to do both.  Also check what open WiFi signals are coming into your house.  We asked our neighbor who had an unsecured WiFi to establish a password.  She was glad we brought it to her attention.  I have to pay for parental controls on our cellular service, but it is well worth it.

    Good luck.

  • Our 10-year-old daughter has friends with smartphones, tablets, etc and who seem to not have limits on computer access.  She is very angry that we won't get her a smart phone and that we set limits on gaming activity. We have held off on a tablet, though we think she should have one, because it has been so hard negotiating limits. 

    This really came out of nowhere in 4th grade (she just started 5th) and we know it will only get worse. We have used Common Sense Media as a guide, and it is helpful but only to a point.

    Try to keep her busy with other things (hiking, swimming, soccer, dance, music, chess, etc) either as a family activity, in a class, or with a group of friends, then she won't have enough spare time to need limits. Really this strategy is working well for me and my child.

    Hi there -

    I would advise you to stick to your guns. And take "no else has screen limits" with a grain of salt. That is the rallying cry of tweens and teens and a little investigation often uncovers a more nuanced truth. My response has been something along the lines of "our rules are different," and, in an attempt at levity "looks like you landed in the wrong family." The smart phone thing is harder, and gets more complicated every year it seems. Our son, now 14, didn't get a smart phone until 8th grade. Our daughter, now 20, inherited a used one in 9th grade from a friend because we wouldn't buy her one. But more and more it seems "everyone" has one. We don't allow any screens in my son's bedroom, so there are ways to limit access once they have them. But it is difficult and tiring to be always monitoring. And as for the anger - it comes with the territory. Good luck.

    I feel your pain. I will say that kids can make it out like you're the only one who sets limits, when in fact if you talk with other parents they are setting limits too. Perhaps taking your daughter to a screening of the movie Screenagers may be helpful. I also feel that, as parents, we have to pick our poison, as while it's really difficult to set limits, this board is full of parents talking about how their tech-obsessed preteens and teens ignore family and school, or truly show signs of addiction. I can say that both personally and professionally I talk with many, many parents of teens who wish they were in your position and tell me they wished they would have set limits before things got out of control. While some may argue that setting limits causes a "forbidden fruit" effect, the truth is that setting early limits, e.g., as we do with junk food, leads to less unhealthy use later on.

    Richard Freed, Ph.D., father of 9- and 13-year-old girls and the author of Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age.

    Make sure she is not playing you. Kids are famous for saying that "nobody else has to _____" (get off the phone, do their homework, eat their vegetables, do their chores, etc." I would check in with a few other parents and see what info you can get. Beyond that, it doesn't really matter what other kids' parents are doing, you are in charge of your family. It may be helpful to frame it as "in our family, we _____" but it is sure to infuriate her. Good for you for holding off on the phone and tablet. It is a slippery slope and an exhausting battle. Once she understands that you are not going to cave, she may be less angry. 

    The best thing about giving your kid a phone (though not until middle school in my opinion) is that you then have so much leverage for getting the kind of behavior you want. Kids LIVE for their phones. Therefore—if she complains about having limits, take the phone away for a few days. If she makes a big scene about that, add a few more days. It was amazing how quickly my protesting, whining child figured out how to be polite, do homework, go to bed on time, etc. Giving them phones (rather than letting them just use mine occasionally) actually made limit-setting easier. 

    Do you know any of these friends' parents? Or can you find out how to contact them? Our girls would complain from time to time about the vast privileges "everyone else" had, but when I would call or e-mail, it frequently turned out that "everyone" was just three or four kids.

    Just a strong vote of encouragement from here to hold your ground!  I'm not sure what your question is - to give in and get her the devices she wants, and relax the limits?  Our daughter is 11 (will turn 12 in the fall), and we just got her a first cellphone, whose internet capacity we disabled, with ample discussion with her.  Just a phone to call and text, since she's starting middle school.  It helps that 3 of her friends have the identical (limited) new phone, so there's not the "everyone has them" angle.  I let her use my iPad and laptop at home (for occasional Minecraft and watching reruns of Downton Abbey) though she knows there is a baseline 30-minute limit per day (relaxed for sick days and weekends at times), and no use on school nights.  Seems to me perhaps the conversation with your daughter might be: as long as it is had negotiating limits, she will not get her own.  And later when she gets one: if she fights the limits, it goes away for a while.  Maybe also try watching the Screenagers movie with her - it was an important and sobering movie for our family - see screenagersmovie.com for screenings coming up, as well as helpful links and info (looks like there are a few not too far away, in September).  Our 11 year old said after seeing it, "I don't think I want a smartphone yet - I don't want to get addicted".  

    I just wanted to respond to say that you are not alone as a parent setting limits on these things. I have 2 kids, both boys, a 12 yr. old going into 7th grade, and a 9 yr. old going into 4th. The older one did not get a phone until he went to middle school, and even then, it was with lots of restrictions, rules and limitations. Any app that has in its terms of service that you have to be 13 yrs. old to use it, he doesn't get. That means pretty much every social app out there. It often seems like we are the only family that has held firm on that, but I can't justify him lying about his age to use these apps. There are good reasons that kids should not be on social media apps until they are at least 13. 

    We have no plans to get a phone for the younger kid until he gets to middle school, and I imagine we will hold to the same limitations there. My kids have a kindle, but without internet browsing, and only with games that I approve (I also use Common Sense Media as a general guide). They have no access to a computer in my house except when I sign them onto my laptop and they use it in the common area. 

    All this is just to say that I'm with you. My kids complain and say that we are the only parents in the world who have such restrictions. So I just wanted you to know that you weren't alone. Sorry I don't have good advice for how to make it easier, though! Good luck!

    My son is 15. Most of his friends did not get a phone until middle school. I'm not sure why 10 year olds need a phone unless they have a long walk home from school or go off on their own frequently or something like that. Most of my son's friends also had limits on gaming at that age. Some of his friends had no gaming at all until middle school when peer pressure set in fiercely and parents capitulated. I thought the "no gaming" was too strict, but I did set limits on screen time and still do now that he is in high school. iPads are nice for kids, really great for road trips and boring visits with adult friends and relatives. Maybe next birthday or Christmas? Just establish some sensible rules and have a place not in her room where all electronics charge at night. 

    My son is now 16.  We had a similar situation.  At your daughter's age, we had a DS that he and his younger sister shared during travel, a Wii, and a family computer (not used for gaming).  We gave him a simple call/text phone at age 12 when he began flying to his grandmother's house by himself.  The same year, he and his sister received iPads primarily to be used for family travel and as an e-reader at home.  At 14, in 8th grade, we gave him my old iPhone with the understanding that it would be used for communication and school related uses. We allowed a few games.  He saved gift money and bought himself an X-box. 

    Throughout it all, we had strict parental controls enabled on all devices.  Mobile devices were checked in at night.  Throughout it all, we were very clear in our family values around electronics.  We empathized that it's hard and doesn't seem fair when other families are much more relaxed.  We also listened to him and adjusted when reasonable to us.  We did not try to control what happened with electronics at his friends' houses.  A handful of times, he felt uncomfortable with what was going on at others houses and came home.

    He complained, threw tantrums, pushed back very hard, yet we held firm, slowly granting greater access as appropriate for his development.  He recently purchased a brand new iPhone for himself.  We have no controls on it.  We do set limits on the WiFi and cell service is such that he does not have access on school nights when he should be sleeping.

    The last year or two, kids he knows have gotten into very challenging situations enabled by their use of electronics.  He's old enough now to see kids really screwing up in many ways, digital and otherwise.  A week or so ago he came to me and said he was 90% grateful with the way we've raised him. 

    Do what feels reasonable to you and supports your family values.  Communicate it to your daughter and be empathetic when it doesn't feel fair to her.  Be willing to listen, evaluate, and adjust.  It's not a negotiation.  You are the parent.  Oh, yes, also check out http://www.screenagersmovie.com/.  And, of course, set a good example yourself around use of electronics.

    Good luck.

    "All families are different and what might work or be ok in some families is different from ours" is the response in our family to complaints about things allowed by friends.   Just a few other comments/thoughts...

    -  I don't think getting her a smart phone is going to help with enforcing limits.

    - does her friend actually not have limits or is that just the perception.  She might think something that's not actually true.

    - are the limits you are setting reasonable and realistic?  Yes, there are guidelines, but so they make sense?  Is her social development being limited (by not being in contact with friends at certain times)?  

    My son is a little older than your child, but what's mostly worked for us is to include him in setting the limits and having conversations about why limits are important to our family and the negative impact too much screen time can have. Ask questions like, "How much time do you think is appropriate to be on a screen?" Use that as a starting place to work together to come up with a media plan. Sure, setting limits is important, and ultimately you are the parent, but you can take away some of the power struggle by including her in deciding on how much time she can be on screens. It's a lot easier to say, "You need to get off your phone now - you've been on it for X amount of time. Remember you agreed that X amount of time was more than enough," than it is to say, "Get off because I say so." I will also add that by including your daughter in deciding the limits, you are helping her learn self control and moderation. The goal is for her to have access to technology, but also for her to be able to manage it in a healthy way as she gets more independent. My strategy has always been to talk with my son. We talk about Snap Chat and Instagram. We talk about what his friends are doing online. We talk about the positive sides of social media, as well as the negatives. I try and help him make connections between behavior and outcomes. Talking, and listening, have always worked better than any of my parenting strategies. And, it's important to remember that our kids are individuals with wants and desires that may be different than ours. I felt similarly to you - I had no interest in getting my son a cell phone (not even a smart phone, but any cell phone). With that said, our roles as parents isn't to mold our kids into what we want them to be, it's to help them discover who they are and give them the tools to be the best person possible. Your daughter may want access to technology. Just because you don't value it as part of her life, doesn't mean she feels the same way. The more you show her the things that matter to her aren't important to you, the less likely she will be to open up to you. And, from my experiences with teens, they find ways to do what they enjoy, even if it means sneaking around or lying. So my advice is to include her in coming up with a plan and keep the lines of communication open. Good luck!

    Kindle or Google has settings to set limits on site usage and time. Norton has a software program for family also to review usage or set limits? 

    I would have her sign a written contract and set terms in it for use? 

    But aware that electronics is used by other family members, like me for work, I try to let my tween know when I am using my electronics for work vs pleasure. 

    It is harder to re negotiate after a habit starts then setting limits s at the beginning and I get requests to renegotiate each year

    i have recently started planning time and activities that can replace e time and that works well. 

    Good luck

    Realistically, I'm sorry to say that I don't think you can keep these things away from her. She needs a smart phone because it's like any person now having ANY phone. In the beginning I attempted to keep my daughter from having one. I eventually got her an iPhone and now that she's a young teenager I wouldn't dream of taking it away from her. Set limits, I fully agree. (Or try to, FWIW.) But really, even my five-year-old nephew has a smart phone. Sorry for the news...

    I feel your pain!  I have teenagers and I wished I had put more time limits and access controls in place earlier in their lives so that it wouldn't be like I was now taking something away.  We had loosely said "no more than 1 hour a day on school days, and 2 hours on weekends", but the constant reminders wore us down and was very hard to enforce, especially after letting it slip on many occasions.   Thankfully there some helpful technologies that have come out.  If this had been part of the rules from the beginning they wouldn't have questioned it as much.  It is not easy, but I believe it is necessary and best to do it in a way that you don't have to actually enforce constantly, but instead have it set up to be controlled remotely.  Some options for internet controls are to get a wifi router on which you can set up several accounts, give her a separate account and put in a shut off time.  One device that I recently got that is very easy to use is called "Circle by Disney".  You can buy it at Best Buy and they have exceptional customer service.  The device connects to the wifi and you can set up profiles for each person and device, and then set up daily time limits, bedtimes, and restrict assess based on maturity.  It has a feature that allows you to pause the wifi anytime you want.  It also has a history feature so you can monitor which websites your kids are visiting and if they tried to access something that was blocked based on the maturity setting you have selected.  My kids got computers at pretty young ages, and phones due to taking the train to school.  We got smart phones because they were easy to use, but I wish I had turned off access to data so would not have access to internet browsing, social media or other when they were using their phones.  At least with the iPhone you can use the restrictions feature to lock down the access (takes a little figuring out on the iPhone).  And with ATT you can also sign up for Smart Limits (for a fee) and to restrict access to cellular data during certain hours.  So between putting remote access limits on at home for the wifi, restrictions on the phone to block Safari and downloading, and then Smart Limits on the data, it will help a lot.  I wish it wasn't like this in our modern age, but what else can we do?

    I have a 13 y/o daughter who seems pretty obsessed with her phone. I am looking into getting CIrcle with Disney, which is supposed to remotely set limits on screen time and which websites/apps she can access to at various times and days fo the week. it's not perfect, but it takes the limits a bit out of your hands and can limit the fighting, I think. You can check it out on Amazon in the discussions area.

  • Navigating Screen Usage with Range of Ages

    (3 replies)

    Hello, I have a 2 yr old and 6 yr old and 2 step sons who are 12 and 14. The older boys are constantly on their phones playing games and then shift to the tv for a few shows, and then back to their phones. My 6 year old has followed suit with them and although he has no phone, he's looking over their shoulders. The 2 yr old is very interested in what they're doing too. I've tried for many years, to put limits- but my husband is all for it- believing that this is "just the way things are for kids these days". 

    Im at a loss. I see how my younger sons have lost a lot of the curiousity and creativity to play and imagine on their own. 

    What do I do? How do you navigate the dynamics of a blended family with a big age range, an unsupportive partner, and the constant blur of gaming/shows/YouTube? (And not be the evil stepmother or over controlling mom) 

    I believe that you have an important talk ahead of you with your husband. I talk with a lot of parents who are reticent to have such a talk, with the result being that their kids are negatively impacted--as screen-focused kids turn away from family and school. Some may suggest, "It's just screens," but screen time is the single greatest waking activity for kids and the overuse of such has powerful effects on kids' happiness and success. In essence, how kids use screens shapes a remarkable amount of their lives. If you feel your partner continues to be unresponsive, I suggest seeing a family counselor with just you and your husband to work things out. While that may sound like a big step, many parents on this forum describe their kids suffering from game addictions/obsessions, poor school perf., and other problems expressly because of too much time gaming, on phones, etc.  I think it's important to avoid that, especially as you have a great opportunity while your kids are young. Good luck to you.

    Richard Freed, Ph.D., author of "Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age"

    Sounds like a very difficult situation to navigate.  I have the same challenge although not with as wide and age range for my two children.  I am constantly trying to convince my 18 year old that she needs to be aware of her behavior so as not to be a bad influence on the 14 yr old.  Hopefully you can continue communicating with your husband so that he understands your concerns (there are a lot of resources out there that support your concerns), and perhaps talking with the step children to see your perspective and to have them become allies in helping protect the younger members of the family.  Maybe if they see it as their job to protect the younger children instead of your trying to control and limit their behavior, they will take it on themselves to see their roles as protectors and themselves as allies to help you.  Good Luck!

    Maybe you and your husband can read the book together along w/ the older boys, "That crumpled paper was due last week."  It's 

    an excellent book about how to get boy's back on track w/ some boundaries so that they can prioritize school and other activities.

    There is an excellent video of a presentation of a researcher (forgot her name) who has shown the detriment to boys who use screen time constantly.  

    If you want a link to it, I'll send it to you.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Media/YouTube Rules for 7th grade (almost 8th grade) girl?

June 2012

My daughter's media diet is limited to 30 minutes of computer time per day (not including homework) after she finishes all homework and chores. When she was younger she used the time to play Poptropica. In 6th grade she graduated to Disney shows like Suite Life on Deck and Wizards of Waverly Place. She's finishing 7th grade now and last night I found her watching a movie on YouTube called ''The Boyfriend I met online.'' I'm not comfortable with the underaged drinking and the sex scenes in the movie. What's the right approach to media management at this age? Should I let her watch anything she wants? Discuss what she's watching? I don't really have time to sit with her for the whole 30 minutes while she's on the computer - i've got 2 other kids, etc. Suggest other activities she could do online? I'm curious what other people are doing. Thanks.

Let it go, mom! The kids who had the strictest parental controls for their kids' video/movie fare, are the most far-out, messed-up kids among my daughters' friends.

When our daughters were small (9 and 12), we were in Paris and went to an English-language movie. I asked the ticket seller if the movie was OK for kids, and she assured me it was fine. In the first 10 minutes, a couple had sex with heavy breathing, and someone was killed. It was a movie, the kids (our kids) were fine, and that changed my view about movie rules.

I'd be more worried about the plethora of youtube and especially movies featuring unmitigated violence, with crowds cheering as the 'good guys' mow down the 'bad guys' in a battle of fists or a hail of bullets. . -- liberal on youtube and movie rules

I think you should definitely try to keep some idea of what she is watching, and discuss it with her, just like you would presumably talk about media from other sources like movies, TV, books and so on.

You might also consider, and I realize this may be controversial, setting up the computer she uses with two screens, mirrored. One would be for her to watch, the other would be larger, and would be for everyone to see what it is she is watching. You don't have to be sitting with her for 30 minutes, but at least you would be able to see what she is watching if you were in the room, you would have a chance to see it, and discuss. The message for her would be, ''Yes, you get your 30 minutes on the computer, but I need to have some awareness of what you are doing for your safety, my piece of mind.''

It's not just YouTube videos you need to think about, but who she's instant messaging with, talking to on Facebook, etc. social medialite

How to stop teen's internet access at night?

June 2011

We've discovered that our 14 year old son is using the internet after we go to bed - mostly to facebook chat with girls. Is there a program/tool that just can just stop internet access after a certain time, e.g. 10:00 p.m. (as opposed to stopping access to the computer altogether , in case there is legitimate non-internet homework to be done, )?

Also, are there parental controls on google chrome? I couldn't figure out how to get to them.

We have 1 Mac desktop and a laptop PC. We're technically challenged and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed about how to figure all of this out. Are there any good web sites that explain what parental controls you can do for free on Firefox and Chrome or IE, Youtube, etc. Do I need to to buy one of those things like Net Nanny or Safe Eyes? Are they complicated and more trouble than they are worth if you are not tech savvy?

The Berkeley Parents web page has some info, but it's not very recent and not all that helpful.

Thanks so much for any advice. worried tech challenged mom

I've had a similar problem. What I've done when I've needed to maintain internet control is disconnect and remove the power source for my wireless adapter. Since our desktop is connected through our wireless adapter this takes care of access for all computers and wifi compatible devices in our house. anon

Can you read his chats later? Just let him know you read them. My kid calls it ''facebook stalking''. Tough. He reduced his Facebook time by about 80%. I also mentioned the chats to some of the girls (and guys) Moms for a little peer pressure ick-factor. The other option is to unplug the computer. He should be in bed by 10 anyway. If schoolwork is needed, he can ask you for special use. My kids are not allowed unlimited or private use of the computer. Facebook Stalking Mom

Mac's have built in parental controls that allow you to not allow access to the computer during certain times. Click on the apple at the top left, choose system preferences and under ''system'' you will see the yellow parental controls icon. The administrator can set up controls for other users (ours is on a shared computer where we each have our own log in account, but only parents have admin rights). I would think you should be able to find more on this online, once you know it's possible. Some routers will also let you set these controls at the level of the internet only, which might allow computer usage (ie, for homework typing), but not internet access. This is something that someone more tech savvy than I would have to help with, however. Good luck, you are doing the right thing. Claire

We had the same problem with our daughter. A friend recommended we try K-9 protection, a free software program that limits what you can search for on the internet (such as porn) and when you can have access. It's worked well for us. Good luck! Been there

Norton Internet Security has an easy add-on that controls hours. (It's called ''child controls'' or something like that.) If you have an Internet router, it may have time controls. In my experience, the interfaces for them are straightforward--you don't have to be technically savy. Francesca

We faced a similar problem and my husband came up with a simple, low-tech solution. Is your son getting the internet through a wireless network? If so, simply get one of those timers that you can buy at the hardware store to turn a light on and off when you are away, and put it between your wireless router and the wall socket. It works like a charm, the wireless started up again fine in the morning when the device gave it power again. I worried that my kids might try to tamper with it, but they never did.

Safeeyes can also do the job, blocking internet to only that computer during certain hours. It is more complicated to use, but we found it very useful when we had concerns about online activities, if you later get to that point. It does a good job of blocking sites in a range of concerns that you can select. Including some I had never thought of, like pro-suicide sites. (What a world!) Good luck. been there

I used to disconnect the internet altogether by unplugging the cable and hiding it. You can also unplug the modem or whatever you are using. You can still use the computer but not the internet. anon

I have a friend who just unplugs the modem and takes it to bed with her at night. Computer still works, if papers need to be written, but her kids know to get all their Internet-related work/play done before 9:30 or 10 pm.

I'm not tech savvy enough to know of or recommend any software solutions, but I'll bet they exist.

I realize that you want to leave the computer free for homework, but maybe that could be done earlier. When I want to stop my daughter from using the computer, I just take a cord or small part that is needed to run it. Or take the laptop. It's a cheap way to handle it. I don't know if that helps but that's what I do. Mean Mom

My solution to this problem is low tech but highly effective. When I go to bed I just unplug the router and take the power cord into my bedroom for the night. (If the computer being used is hooked up directly to the modem, then you could do the same thing with the power supply to the modem). Shockingly, my son actually admitted that he likes this solution - he was having trouble disciplining himself as far as internet usage and now he's getting much better sleep. -

Here is what we do in our household. We keep the desktop MAC and the laptops that my husband and I have, in a common area - so that there is no access to them at night. Before bed, both our kids (12 & 14) must turn over their ipods & phones to us. They're allowed to read in bed, but no screen time after 9pm.

We have a wifi network in our home that has a timer - and can be used to limit wifi access to certain devices at certain times. Although we don't use it a lot because of the above.

And, if that all sounds like it's too complicated - I would just pull the plug on your DSL modem after 9 or 10pm. Flip the switch - and literally turn it off or unplug it. No internet - no facebook. lauren

Mac has a good builtin parental control system. You can limit the total number of hours, or limit use of the computer to certain hours. You can allow the Internet access to a certain list of domains, or disallow access to a list of domains.

Perhaps this web page might help: http://macs.about.com/od/switchersnewusers/ss/parentalcontrol.htm TK

We just installed onlinefamily.norton.com - on our PC. It is a FREE download as well. It is great. You can monitor and control what type of sites are allowed at what time of day from YOUR computer and you can also see what sites they are going to while they are on the computer. It has all kinds of categories to monitor/block/restrict access (facebook, youtube, porn, sports, etc). There are just too many distractions on the computer these days so I am very happy we finally are using this software. My high school child goes to bed earlier now that we have this in place. best thing I have done

Rules for teen having a laptop?

Nov 2010

My daughter (10th grade) is trying to convince us to let her buy a laptop, if she can save the money (and it looks like she will, before the end of the school year). We've always had her use the family computer, which is located in a central room in the house, but she's made some compelling arguments for getting her own (not the least of which is that she doesn't get enough computer time to do her homework when she has to use the family computer...). She's a good kid, gets good grades, and isn't likely to get involved in anything unsafe , so we pretty much trust her intentions, but just feel uncomfortable with the idea of her having her own.

Have any of you faced this? Come up with some good family rules to make it palatable, and prevent your child from disappearing into their room with their laptop? (We're thinking about telling her that the place the laptop ''normally lives'' is in the living room, and that she has to ask permission to take it to her room or to a friend's house.) Any lessons learned or mistakes made? (fwiw, we do already have an internet contract with her, i.e. rules of safe internet usage.) mom of a teen

We got our kids laptops as high school graduation gifts. Before then, they used the communal computers. I was the only way of keeping track of what they did on the internet. A laptop means they have a computer wherever they go. Not good in high school. mean mom

Remember that in 3 years this child will be going off to college where you will not be able to supervise her daily activities. Start now to give her opportunities to learn how to function without her parents watching over her shoulder. Give her the opportunity to make and learn from her mistakes while you are close by to support her. We've never had a family computer, my kids always had their own when they became old enough to use one. We went through the laptop dilemma last year and collectively agreed that purchasing my son a new desktop was a better solution. He didn't really need the mobility of a laptop and laptops are significantly more expensive than desktops. Most kids will need a laptop at college and the one you buy now may not meet their needs in 3 years as a college student. college parent too

You just said it all right here: ''but just feel uncomfortable with the idea of her having her own.'' Always go with your gut feeling...10th grade,she's a sophmore, and she wants to buy one at the end of the school year which means her junior year. So she really doesn't need it until September of her Junior year, providing she can earn the money. You can set limits even with her own laptop, no computer after 10 pm for example just like you can set limits with the use of a cell phone. No phone calls after 9 pm for everyone in the house. You can have a community drawer and all cell phones can go in the drawer at a certain time each night.. It's your house, your rules. If you feel uncomfortable with something, you're probably right...trust yourself. Our kids respect when we're honest with them and we don't always need an excuse to say ''no''. We have to be the parent. Jan

Your daughter is definitely old enough to have her own laptop to use as she wishes.

Rules for teen: 1)Don't post any naked or drunk pictures of yourself anywhere online. (Of course she is not supposed to be getting drunk or naked in the first place but just remind her about that and then forget about it.)

2)Be careful about what type of personal information (address, age, school, routine) that she gives out.

Rules for mom: Relax.

We found this website helpful in setting limits regarding facebook & internet guidelines for our young teen. It even has video clips featuring teens sharing their experiences after posting something. http://www.internetsafety101.org/ Sam

Limiting Internet Access on a Teen's Laptop

May 2010

Our soon to be 9th grader has asked for a laptop for school. He knows that next year will be a big step up in homework and expectations and we all know he is addicted to the internet and Facebook. We are considering providing a low cost or used laptop to facilitate school work (and perhaps to reward progress early in the school year). But both parent and kid agree it might be beneficial if the internet could be ''locked out'' during important parts of the day -- particularly school hours and some period thereafter (and perhaps altogether since there is a desktop at home with internet access available for kids). Is it possible to lock out wireless connections on a laptop (a) permanently and (b) at the times of our choosing?

Tellingly, when I searched Google for answers the only options that come up treat the loss of internet access as an unmitigated catastrophe.

Thanks for any guidance. Anon

To the parent who is looking to limit internet access on your teen's laptop: I have heard of something called ''Covenant Eyes.'' You can google this site. It's supposed to track the types of sites visited on the internet and can be an internet filter. Some of my friends use it in their families for accountability regarding web pages viewed. I haven't signed up for it yet because my kids aren't old enough, but when they are, I want to give it a try. Good luck! Kris

I think you could disable the internet permanently by having a techie type remove the wireless card. there is also a program called Safe eyes that you can buy that gives you a lot of control over internet use on kids computers. It is a bit complicated to use, but you can define times as well as many other limitations. I had this on my kids computers for awhile, but eventually got rid of it because when they needed to visit a site (researching breast cancer, say) that was blocked, it was a pain to get it excepted. I have to tell you that, at least at many high schools, there is an assumption that your child has internet access and they will need it for homework. Assignments and worksheets are posted online, group projects are managed via a google group, and of course research. Anne

You can lock access by this laptop when it is at home with your teen, but you can't lock access easily when it's elsewhere! there are several options. If you have wireless at home, it will have a little administrative software interface for settings etc. Through this you can define a rudimentary schedule.

If you want to control the laptop when it's elsewhere, though, you will have to look into one of the commercial packages out there like Net Nanny. They are installed on the machine, require a password and some can be managed remotely. (the access schedule, that is.) I'm several years out of date but here's a comparison as a starting point. http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/ good luck! parent of 2 boys who live in the internet, not on this planet

We've been through this with our 9th grade daughter. Our daughter has a MacBook, so I can speak to the parental controls on Macs. And yes, you can lock your son out of internet access during specific times of day. You need to set up an administrator account - obviously your son doesn't get the password. This will allow you to set controls on both his computer use time and internet access. You can block some web sites entirely but you can't set different time limits and hours of access to different sites. And as the administrator you can change or lift the controls - say if your son temporarily needed increased internet access to complete a school project. You might ask for a demonstration at the Apple store to see how this works. But here's some advice that I got both from the Mac Genius Bar and our 22 year old son that is not Mac specific. The Mac genius explaining the parental controls said Speaking as an ex-adolescent, I'd recommend that the most effective way to keep kids from wasting time on the internet is to have them use the computer out in the open, in family space.: Overhearing this comment, his colleague leaned over to say that he agreed with this advice. Our son remarked that since changing jobs to a company where his computer was in an open office, he found himself wasting a lot less time on the net then when he had more private office space.

Does 13-year-old need her own computer?

April 2010

I am wondering whether to get my 13-year-old daughter her own computer, or get a household laptop that she will share with the rest of the family (2 parents, 8-year-old brother.) She now uses one of two laptops that her dad and I use for our work, and that use consists of some school work but mostly Facebook postings, random internet trolling, and movie watching, the latter of which she does in her room. Next year when she's in high school she'll need more computer access for schoolwork than our two laptops can provide. I know research says that teens should use computers in public spaces, and that having one in their room is akin to putting a television in their room. I am concerned about losing her down the rabbit hole of the Internet if I give her her own computer, not to mention the inability to control what she's watching and when. My thought about a shared computer is that there can be parental control, both physical - in insisting that she surrender it occasionally since it won't be solely hers - and internal parental control settings on the computer. However, I would prefer to have a situation where we could trust her to use the machine responsibly and not get herself into trouble. I am interested to hear what the experience of other parents is around this issue. Do so many teens have their own computers that I'm swimming upstream on this issue? concerned mom

We provide a computer for our 13 year old twins (boy, girl) to share. We keep it in the Dining room. We have a laptop that is used occasionally by us that they can use in certain situations, but we don't allow them to use it in their room.

I think a middle schooler needs a computer to do schoolwork. Our school has all assignments and grades on-line for both students and parents to check. Teachers can send eMail to students via this on- line site.

Until this year, we had (Windows Vista based) internet filtering turned on. Even though it was set to block just the worst stuff, it was blocking way too many sites, so we gave up on that.

We still have internet monitoring on so we can see which web sites they frequent. I check that once a week. It only lists the 10 most visited sites, so it isn't perfect, but it lets them know we are paying attention.

I wouldn't let your daughter use the computer in her room. It is an invitation to abuse. I would set time limits on how long each day your daughter can use the computer for things other than school work. We limit ''media'' time (TV, computer games, internet goofing around) to 30 minutes on weekdays and 1 hour on the weekend.

We don't allow our kids to have their own website, blog, or use Facebook. I can't think of anything good coming from someone under 18 having a Facebook page or a blog. It isn't necessary and can lead to problems with bullying, etc. Buy her a diary if she wants to write things about her life. Parent of teens

No. No, no, no. No. Don't get her her own computer. She may be a wonderful 13-year-old girl with need for substantial computer time for school and desire for some online socializing BUT SHE IS A 13- YEAR-OLD GIRL. She needs to be in the den or the family room or the dining room when she's on the computer -- a room where you spend a lot of time and are often hanging out when she's computing. My daughter is a wonderful girl, now a college freshman. But when she was 13 she engaged in some preliminary risky online behavior, and if it had been on her own computer, in her own room, I would never have known nor been able to intervene. She was not a rebellious or risky teen, just a normal, curious, naive 13-year-old. You still have to be the parent. That may even mean monitoring software that will tell you where online she went and even give you screen shots or capture keystrokes. I'm sorry, I know the whole privacy argument, but there is just too much danger too easily accessible online, and teens, even smart ones, do not have the judgement and maturity to stay safe. If she had been in her room, on her own password- protected computer, and I hadn't been able to spot what she was doing, and tell her about the huge risk she was taking....it could have been a disastrous liaison with a predator masquerading as a friendly young teen. Please don't give up on family time, even if you have to give up your TV show and read quietly while she does her homework on the family computer at the other end of the room. BTW, we did get her her own MacBook right before college, and that was just the right time. Lucky Mom

I have very mixed feelings about the technology that is available to us today. It is a blessing to have so much information at our fingertips but at the same time the internet is highly addictive and can really detract from the finer things in life like reading a good book instead.

I have a 17 year old daughter who is about to go off to college and although we did get her a laptop computer at about the same time you are thinking of getting your daughter one I have to tell you that had I to do it over again I would not have given into her request so soon. I might have waited a couple of more years and just let her use the family desk top instead. For us it became the Battle Royale.

We did try to limit her use of the computer/internet but with the advent of DSL in our home it was impossible to see what she was up to when she was in her room doing her homework. We had her use her computer in the common areas of our home so we could keep an eye on her but that didn't really work very well. Unless you are literally staring at the screen for the entire time kids can be awfully tricky about going from site to site without you knowing what's going on. We also used to remove the laptop at bedtime because she would stay up at all hours to communicate with her friends online which made getting up in the morning a terrible struggle, and of course her mood was no picnic either.

Nowadays she is, as my husband calls it, free range on the computer. However, she is nearly a straight A student so it's hard to argue with her about how the computer effects her work when she does pretty well in school.

If you do decide to get your daughter her own laptop proceed with caution, set some firm ground rules, get some software to monitor the sites she visits, and see how it goes. You can always limit her use of the computer if she seems too distracted by it. Eventually she will have to learn to self-regulate and that's something you can definitely help her with. Best of Luck

We had a good experience with dedicating a desktop computer to our son's use, but keeping it in a public place (our dining room). This worked very well from age 12 until about 15, lots of creative use but little misuse. We've got many great memories of our son and his friends crowded around the computer watching/posting skate boarding videos, etc. He is required to have a laptop for high school and for him this also seems to be about the right age for a computer in his own space.

We didn't want a laptop in his bedroom sooner based on bad experience with another child. One thing to watch out for: An iPhone is pretty much a laptop equivalent for most kids. We got one for our son at at 15 and a lot of viewing moved into the bedroom. anonymous

Hi, This is a tough one. They absolutely need a computer for high school. Some classes post the homework on the web, they need to upload papers to the teacher, etc. However, my son is so incredibly distracted while he does his homework with live chat, facebook, music, youtube, games. He wastes a HUGE amount of time. It's gotten so bad that I think he might be addicted to it. I try to monitor it but I can't be there every second. Interestingly, the only kid who has no laptop access is doing the best in school. I am so frustrated and sad. In 8th grade he was a stellar student (no laptop). I estimate that 90% of the time he's in his room he's playing on the laptop with non-school related stuff. I would suggest a RIGID schedule of when the laptop is used for ''fun'' of one hour a day. And you need to have access to their Facebook page. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff that goes on there. Can't stand the lap top

I have an almost 16 yr girl who has had her own computer for 2 years now. I use a monitoring program called E-Blaster. I love it!, She hates it. This program actually sends you email information as she uses the computer. I get chat records and site usage. She has always known that I use this program even though it can be entirely hidden from the person being monitored. It needs to be installed on their computer, then all transactions and changes to the program, including blocking sites and specific chat members, can be accomplished via my computer. I have used this information as a source of dialog with my teen. The boys and even the girls are extremely sexual in their chats and I have discussed the importance of insisting being treated with respect by others. This week I had a breakthrough in which she came to me and told me she had ''unfriended'' a boy who was being inappropriate. I told her that I am very proud of her. I have told her I would stop monitoring the computer when I felt that our communication was adequate. I have learned a ton about partying, drinking and sexual activity of peers, most of which is pretty scary, but at least we talk about it. Twice I have called parents of other teens (not recently) because of my concerns, but their response has not been particularly receptive and it made my daughter very mad. I also am a friend on her facebook, but I use a false name so that her friends are not aware of who I am. This helps me see what she and others are posting, particularly videos and pictures. Marilyn

Should we get 12-year-old a video gaming device?

Dec 2009

I'd like to hear from parents of tween/teen boys about video games. Our son is now twelve and we have resisted getting any kind of video gaming device (xbox, wii, nintendo, etc.) so far based on our feeling that they will be all consuming of his time, and he won't want to ever leave the house or do anything outdoors. Also, we think that most of the games themselves are junk that we don't want in our home -too violent, overstimulating, and ugly. We know that there are some games that won't be offensive, and would love to hear about ones you like.

What sort of rules or controls have you set? For the past several years, we have limited him to three screen days a week and for the other 4, all screens are off limits, though he can do math or typing drills only on the computer. He has snuck in use of his ipod by listening to music or watching you tube videos which is technically a rule bender. His begging has ramped up - he will not give up on us, and we're running out of patience, stamina, courage in ways to explain why we don't want these things.

How have you negotiated use of these devices --the time and soul suck? Do they adversely affect your ability to engage your kids in going out? In doing homework? On doing anything social at all? Please share your stories and help us decide. As far as war games go, as a pacifist mom, I try to explain my views to my son, even if he doesn't agree, and both parents screen all his movie and computer game choices for age appropriateness to some degree. I like the web site www.commonsensemedia.org for guidance. I don't want to strictly forbid because I know this can backfire. Please share your opinion as to whether you feel there are redeeming qualities to these devices. How to strike a balance? Anti-video game parents

Video games seem to be a major form of socialization for the boys in my son's age group (middle school -- 12-14). They gather together around the game, shout encouragement or criticism at each other, laugh, and have a good time. This seems to be the alternative, as far as I can see, to doing what kids used to do: play battle games outside. It would be preferable for them to play outside, but where, really? The landscape we used for those games where I grew up in the rural Midwest doesn't really exist here. The other site for socialization seems to be the mall, and I really prefer gathering the boys in my home or another boy's home. So. Two games have dominated their interest, one of which I actually love: Beatles Rock Band. It is fun and somehow touching to have a group of kids on (toy) guitars and drums and vocals, belting out the classic Beatles hits. They even let me play occasionally! The other game is Halo, which is a shooting and battle game, so at first I hated it. But the kids design their own landscapes, create teams and strategies, etc. It's not so bad. They have two hours after school to play. If homework gets done in the evening and there is no family activity, my son will sometimes play on-line with a friend for a bit. And then there are marathon gaming sleepovers... I think you should consider succumbing. It hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be; sometimes it's even good! Linda

We resisted all video games that go on a tv -- all those xbox and such. I said, ''Video games rot your brain.'' I didn't bother to expand. To all his pleas, exceptions, offers, I replied, ''Not in my house; they rot your brain.'' My son happens to have ADHD and his wonderful doctor asked him at one point to discribe how he feels when he's playing games (all his friends have them). He said he felt relaxed, calm, away from the negative things in life (hassles, homework, etc). To which the doctor said, ''that's what drug addicts say about being high. It's not you. You're not bad. It's just your brain. It's the way the games affect your brain.'' Did he continue to argue? Sure. Did I bother to explain? Nope. Studies back me up. I also made him brush his teeth and wear a seatbelt. the mean mom

My first instinct is that if you are opposed to video games for whatever reason, then you don't need to succumb. However, it isn't like the video game console is a demon waiting to suck your child's life force. You can manage the time and content exposure, and in turn teach your son to manage it. All the same parenting rules apply to video games that apply to anything else in your house.

We are a video game family. My kids have played video games for a loooong time. We just turn it off if we feel they've played too long. Or, if you already have limits on screen time, just keep the same limits. My kids still ask if they can play video games before they do so and if the answer is yes, I give them a time limit.

My son (14) is much more likely to atrophy in front of any screen than my daughter (10) is. So, he needs a firmer hand with time management. My daughter will play a video game for a little bit, then go outside and shoot baskets or whatever.

My kids still do drama, sports, music. They get fantastic grades and have lots of friends. Video games have not hurt them at all. But, again, if you hate the idea of them in your house, you need to make that call.

In my experience, for our younger son, now 16, videogames fit the definition of an addictive substance--highly reinforcing, overwhelming his interest in all other activities, and causing huge anxiety when he is not allowed to play. We consider that ''screen time'' is a privilege he has to earn by maintaining his grades, chores, exercise, attitude--but it has still been an appalling struggle to get him to comply with the agreed upon plan, even with the computer out of his bedroom.

He definitely prefers videogames to family interactions--although some portion of this may be teen related rather than game related....

One benefit--maybe--he plays online and has developed greater social and communication skills with his gaming buddies compared to his classmates... videogamers anonymous--I wish...

Dear Anti-video game parents,

My son is 14, and reading your posting was as if I was listening to myself two years ago. We've watched our son drop all his interests and immerse himself more and more in to his Xbox, and more specifically these ultra violent war games. It's hard to believe that only two years ago we were limiting him as you are your son, and felt as strongly about violence in gaming as you do. We were eventually worn down by his pleading to let him show us how he could monitor himself, and finally allowed a grandparent to buy him the system. The first games he got were innocent enough, but over the past 24 months we've seen him transition to more and more realistic war games. Then two weeks ago, my husband and I made the difficult decision to shut him down. The Xbox does have a timer function, but my son had figured out how to override it pretty easily. The system has been in the closet since then and I know that my son is grappling with depression and withdrawal. We were desperate to have him back as a member of our family, and the cold turkey method was the last resort. Slowly we are seeing his humor and curiousity re-emerge. I hope you do not find yourself here in 2 years.

As you probably know, kids can go places like Eudemonia to play their video games, and since it costs money it does limit their ability to immerse themselves somewhat. You can't forbid the gaming altogether since they'll sneak around to play if they want to. My advice to you is that if you decide to get the system, which I don't think is entirely the wrong choice, it is crucial that you don't let your time limits slide. Don't be swayed by ''If you let me play as much as I want to, you'll see that I'll get tired of it and will limit myself''. It doesn't work. You'll need to have firm expectations around other parts of his life like homework, studying, sports, family events and face to face friend time. If you think you can hold the line on those things, then it might not be a bad idea to have a system. The Xbox allowed my son to watch movies and interact in real time with friends from the comfort of his room, which I know he enjoyed and I regret that his addiction forced our hand to shut it off entirely. My hope is that someday we can reintroduce it in a limited way.

By the way, if he'd be happy with a Wii, it is much more interactive (face to face interactive) than the Xbox.

My 12-year-old son has a Wii system that he bought with his own money. One redeeming quality is that he and his friends play games like Mario Bros. together, cooperating in an effort to win. Jennifer

Please email me if you want to hear the story about the three teenagers (ages 16, 18, and 20) I've been living with who have been playing the on-line video games for 6 years now. (Really very gruesome story.) Basically, the bottom line for me is JUST SAY ''NO''! Adults are better able to judge how they want to end up living their lives which is why alcohol, smoking, gambling, drugs are all illegal for kids. On-line video games should be illegal for kids under 21. I think that one day they'll discover that the on- line video games (an example is World of Warcraft - WOW) are extremely addictive and destructive to kids whose brains are still developing. I'm sure it would help if time limits were set (my step kids had no limits), but would you set a time limit on gambling or using cocaine for your child because all the other kids are doing it, and aren't you a terrible mom for not letting them do it? I've seen it first hand that the more they play, the more they want to play and nothing else in life is interesting anymore. They live to play. There has to be something wrong with that! Rita

We just took away our son's Xbox privileges because we felt he had lost all other outside interests. He didn't stay angry for very long which I think tells me he knows it's true. We tried setting limits on how much he played, but it continued to be a problem so we told him he wouldn't get to play again until he achieved more balance in his interests. We gave in to getting one initally when he told us he was practically the only one that didn't have one. This may be true, and at first it was a reason kids came over to our house, which we were fine with. Then, once he got Xbox Live (which connects players over the internet) the kids started preferring to go to their own homes to play with each other online. In our book that doesn't count as social interaction. In fact I think it's too easy for kids to get isolated through gaming, as they use it as an escape. Screen time is still an issue even without the Xbox, with Facebook and iTouch and other computer games he sneaks on to, so if I were you I'd avoid an additional source of continuous arguments and ban game consoles. a2zfamily

Hi, We broke down and got a PS3 last year. We had badluck with a PS2 back when our boys were younger. They are now 12 and 13. Since they weren't getting it at our house, they started going over to their friends all the time to play. We decided we wanted some of that social scene to happen where we could see it (the games, the kids, etc). That part has been good. I know their friends much better now. My boys are still quite limited in their play time. To keep the social aspect important, they are allowed to play up to 2 hours with company. Other times it is 3-5 hours per week based on grades. Right now their grades are down a bit, so they are off it for awhile. There is no right answer here. Some days I regret having it. Others I am glad they are doing it in front of me. Good luck! don't like the games either!

I succumbed and it is hard to shut the door once you open it. My son is a straight A student (8th grader), but he spends waaaay too much time on his i-touch (which he bought himself), and various computer based video games. That seems to be his predominate form of recreation with his buddies and they sometimes stay up almost all night playing on Saturdays. I regret having bought him one of the more violent games. I spoke recently with a young man who is a therapist at CAL about these games. He said studies show that they excite the more ''primitive, lizard part of the brain,'' causing that area to develop more and the cerebral cortex to atrophy. During the formative years, the parts of the brain used most build up more neural connections and the other sections are ''pruned back.'' Thus, you want to provide a wide range of experiences for your child if you want a well rounded child. If they did only math, more neural pathways would be built that enable one to succeed at math. In violent video games, you are rewarded for killing or blowing up people/things. Winning is a positive reinforcer. You want to play the game again and kill even more things. I think it also leads to desensitizing children about witnessing or participating in violent acts (witness our recent tragedy at a Richmond High dance). Health Educator with a Teen

We were in the same place you are - except we have a daughter. The vast majority of the neighbors, every one of her soccer team members, and nearly every student in her class had at least one type of game console, believe it or not, most had both xbox and wii.

We explained to our daughter that we would not buy her a wii as she had requested, but she could work and earn the money herself if she wanted one. My daughter walked dogs, set up lemonade stands, saved allowance money, birthday money and finally after two years earned enough money to buy the wii console and the yoga studio. She has only one other game because that is what she can afford.

It has worked well for us. Because my daughter had such a variety of experiences to earn the money, she expanded her creativity, experience and resourcefulness. She also has a game console and plays ''tennis'' about 6 hours per week. We have not put restrictions on her because it is not necessary. She plays outside with friends, continues soccer practice twice a week and is a straight ''A'' student.

I hate television and video games. I had hoped my daughter would not want them, but she does. We found a compromise and it works for our family. Wii not, unless you earn it yourself

I have three sons, two of them teenagers, and we have found a way of managing the video games that works for us. The boys bought their own PS3 - they shopped for months, waited for prices to go down, found one on craigslist, etc. We told them that even if THEY bought it we would still monitor the games and time they play. The oldest one (17) hardly ever plays at home because he is just too busy. The other two (14 and 11) are limited to 3 hours per week and they keep written track of their time. WE have also prohibited any games that involve killing virtual people - HALO, COD, MOH. That was just my line in the sand and I have told them that I know they can play these games at friend's houses but not in our house. That said, they do not spend a lot of time doing this at friend's houses and indeed some of their friends like to come to our house to play other video games. We still have some skirmishes over it and did take it away for one of them for six months...but by and large it works. Good luck

Here's the opposing viewpoint on videogames. We refused to get my son a console and when he was old enough to save up the money he bought himself a Wii. Surprise surprise we all enjoyed playing it! (He has since gotten a 360.) He often had friends over and they all enjoyed talking, laughing and playing together. Lots of the games involve cooperate modes so they have to work as teams. Since getting the console he has kept his grades up, has an active social life, got into a good college and has managed to hold down a job, both at college (part time)and here at home. So, videogames are not the road to failure.

Here's one of my favorite quotes from Steven Johnson's book ''Everything Bad is Good for You,'' describing how people would respond if videogames had always been part of our culture, then along came these thing called ''books:''

Books are tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him or herself in a quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children... But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can't control their narratives in any fashion -- you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. . . . This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they're powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it's a submissive one.

Videogames are not Satan

15 yr old son just wants to veg in front of the TV

June 2009

Need some advice: We have a 15-yr-old son who just finished grade 9 at a private school (he attended public previously). The private school didn't have much to offer in the way of extracurriculars (sports, clubs), but Son didn't still want to participate in anything. He wanted to come home right away after school, eat, and veg in front of the TV until I would literally turn it off and tell him to hit the homework. When we asked him about being on a sports team, he claimed he 'doesn't have time'. This has been the pattern at least for 2nd semester. I ran into a good friend of his yesterday (who goes to the local public, same grade), who is thriving. This kid is on the school soccer & track teams, and told me he is taking an AP class next year. (He and my son have been friends since 2nd grade, and I know my son is intellectually superior to Friend, eg Son was reading at grade 12 level in grade 7.) After chatting briefly with Friend yesterday, I became very depressed. Why is Friend thriving, and all Son wants to do is sit on couch? Son and Friend don't see much of each other anymore (different schools, different circle of friends). In fact, Son doesn't spend time with anyone. If you've read this far, you're going to suggest he's depressed-- I've already had him evaluated and he's been on Lexapro for mild anxiety, but that seems to make him lethargic, ie, not helping the vegging problem. In fact, he seems perfectly content to park himself in front of the TV, or computer, rather than seeking friends or participating in anything. We've decided to put him in the local public school for grade 10 and beyond, mainly because his academic experience was abysmal at the private school (he has to repeat 2 classes mainly due to not turning in his homework, which killed his grades). (BTW we have a grade 7 son who is just the opposite-- thriving, into sports, straight A student, lots of friends.) What should we do with Son-- how can we get him fired up about life and school? Get him into a sport or club? Start hanging with friends again? Thanks for any thoughts. Worried Mom

Hello There ~Worried Mom~ I was in the same boat. I have a 14 year old son that wanted to do nothing but watch tv and play video games. That all changed when we got him involved in Boxing and Sea Scouts. My son's Sea Scout crew would love to have your son come check out the program. If you are interested in either boxing or Sea Scouts, let me know and I can give you the details. Best Intentions. Jennifer

Some questions to ask yourself: did your son seem happy attending public school? Why did you move him to a private school? Did your son want to switch schools? I can guarantee you that your son is not intellectually superior to his Friend. I, and others that I went to school with, had very accelerated reading skills from an early age and it meant very little by the time I reached high school because most kids had caught up. Also, there were always other kids that excelled in other areas that I did not excel in. I'm sure the same is true of your son. If you are telling your kid that he is intellectually superior to his friends, think about the burden you are placing on him (he must always perform BETTER than his friends) Plus, your son, no doubt, knows that he is not superior to his friends and simply finds this characterization annoying. Find out what you kid is interested in and let him explore it, even if you don't particularly like his interests. another person of average intellect

Keeping teen's computer use focused on homework

April 2009

My teen needs to use his computer to do homework. The problem is that the computer is also the portal to all kinds of tempting distractions -- his Facebook page, youtube, AIM, etc. He can take 3 hours to complete what I consider to be about an hour's worth of homework because he flits back and forth between his assignments and the distractions. His work product isn't very good, either, because he's not focusing on it. I have talked to him 1,000 times about the benefits of finishing his work first so that he has free time to enjoy other things, but this message obviously hasn't sunk in. How do others handle this issue of computer use so that their kids stay focused on their work? Anon

I look forward to the answers to this question, because it is exactly the same situation at our house, and is really frustrating. I haven't found the answer, but we have made a tiny bit of progress by locking the computer away and demanding our teen student complete all homework that does not require a computer (such as math) to be done first. Then the computer gets unlocked to do other homework such as a typed assignments. Then I do spot checks to see if she is really doing work rather than getting on Facebook, watching a TV show or a movie. If things are bad, I disconnect the modem and hide it. I feel ridiculous going to these lengths, but I have seen her stay up so late to complete an assignment (and do it poorly) most of the time ''working'' was fooling around. Hopefully, she will eventually internalize these time management techniques more and more. I am so glad there was none of this available when I was in high school and college, I know it would have been harder for me! Sympathetic

9th grader and Video Games - too much?

Nov 2008

Need a reality check. Our 9th grader plays video games about 20-30 hours per week. He can spend almost the entire weekend playing (with friends via the Internet). He gets B's in school, doesn't get into any trouble, and plays a sport once a week for 2 hours. He has no other hobbies, and hates to read. I'm thinking he'll grow out of this or at some point, get really tired of the video games. Should I be concerned or just let nature take it's course? Anon

Way too much! Limit him now!!! I never realized how harmful video games are to a child's sense of reality and motivation until we weaned our son off of them. Do your son a favour and set limits on how often and for how long he plays. My guess is that once he's sitting around with nothing else to do (because he's never done anythign else except playing video games), he'll start to take an interest in other things. Of course, you'll have to make it through a few weeks of ''I'm SOOOOOOOOO boooreddd!'' Belive me, he'll appreciate it when he's in his late teens/early twenties and can actually keep a girlfriend because he has other interests. And no, it's not a phase that they will necessarily grow out of, at least not for many years. Video game free

I'm sure you'll get a lot of ''unplug the console!'' responses, but I think you can dial it back successfully. We were in the same boat as you. My son spends most of his free time playing video games. He socializes with his friends over the xbox while playing. On the plus side, he has even struck up friendships with kids at school because of the xbox...kids he normally never would have talked to. I decided about a month ago that he was playing way too much. Not sure what the total hours were, probably 15-20 hours per week. If your son is really playing 20-30 hours a week, I personally think that is too much. And I am pretty darned lenient about such things. That is like a part time job!!

I just told him one evening that he used to be a lot more interesting before he was consumed by video games. He talked about other things, drew more, etc. We have simply started limiting his time. You say your son hates to read, but you should make him read as much as he plays video games, or even half as much! Also, when he starts playing, give him a set time that he has to end, even set a timer for 5 minutes before so he can't give you that ''I can't save right now!'' crap.

Other ideas, some of which we've implemented pretty successfully:

-- more chores around the house and generally helping out when asked (taking out the garbage, raking leaves, setting the table, pulling stuff out of the dryer, etc.)
-- literally kicking him outside. Even if it is just to poke at stuff with a stick or lay on the ground.
-- engaging him by setting aside time to do something together (go for a walk, read side by side, make cookies, teach how to fold his laundry, etc.)

My son gets straight As, tutors other kids once a week, trains in karate, and performs in a local drama program. So, I understand that he needs the down time, but he also needs to be a well rounded person, and it is my job to make that happen. Mary