Setting Boundaries for Tech Addicted Kids (and Parents)

Apr 30, 2019

Little girl sitting on couch watching smartphone

You’ve tried your best but no matter what you do, your child’s favorite activity is to spend all day on their smartphone or tablet. If bribery, discipline, and intervention have not worked, it’s time for you to face the truth: Your child may have a technology addiction.

Like most parents, I also struggle with setting boundaries with technology that my family will respect. Before setting boundaries, though, it’s important to understand why our kids are on their devices so much. Unfortunately, the truth is that we, as parents, are partly responsible. If you are struggling to manage your child’s screen time, learn how Net Nanny’s parental control software can help.

Things to Consider About Technology Addiction


It’s pretty easy for many of us, our kids included, to spend too much time on our screens. It now feels like second nature, to pick up your phone or tablet when you have a second of free time or spend the evening relaxing with TV or your computer. But this becomes a problem when in the absence of screens, we react negatively.

And that’s when you start nearing technology addiction territory. An Internet addiction is when you have a dependence on technology and find yourself constantly reaching for your phone or checking for new notifications. This can lead to a myriad of issues including neglecting other important activities for screen time and developing health issues as a result of a sedentary lifestyle. Technology is so deeply-rooted in everything we do now, that you or your kids can develop a digital addiction without even noticing.

While managing your own screen time is tough enough, overseeing your child’s digital use can be even more difficult. We want to teach our kids healthy habits and help them find balance from tech addiction but supervising every second of their time is impossible. Parental control tools, like Net Nanny, provide parents with an easy solution to their family’s screen time issues by helping you keep track of just how much time your kids are actually spending online and allowing you to set schedules that work for your family.

Here are a few things to consider before limiting your family’s screen time:

Examine Your Own Tech Usage


I never used to watch too much TV, but my husband was used to turning on the TV on when he woke up each morning and keeping it on until bedtime. I’m guilty of habits like this too. Games like Candy Crush relax me and I can easily overindulge. I’ve also exchanged books for Kindle e-books— while I know I’m reading a book, to my children it often looks like more screen time.

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend using screens around your children? Children observe much more than we think and learn not only from what you tell them, but also from your own behavior. Teaching your children better tech habits and setting boundaries begins with practicing what you preach. If you want to improve your kids’ tech addiction, you’re going to have take a good, hard look at your own tech usage first.

Overuse of Smartphones


In many families, landlines are now nonexistent as they’ve been superseded by smartphones. In this transition however, many of us now feel like we need access to our smartphones 24 hours a day. We use them for so many of life’s details, it feels like we can no longer get along without them. How else would we keep up with our schedules or navigate when driving somewhere new? Not to mention the convenience of being able to capture a photo whenever the moment arises.

Even though our phones have become increasingly practical and handy, many of us have lost the ability to leave home without it. Take stock of your own dependence on technology: How often do you use and rely on your phone? How does it feel when you leave your devices behind? Think about which devices aren’t necessary and consider ways in which you and your family could spend time without screens.

The Myth of Boredom


Since our smartphones have granted us constant entertainment and distractions at our fingertips, boredom has become altogether intolerable and we’ve taught this to our children as well. Without a screen, most people don’t know what to do with themselves if they find themselves with any amount of free time.

Interestingly enough though, a 2019 study by the Academy of Management Discoveries, found that boredom can actually spark creativity and productivity. If you or your children are struggling to be creative, solve problems, or think outside the box, you may be spending too much of your downtime with screens.

Try reminding yourself that it’s okay to be bored and that your first instinct shouldn’t be to turn to a screen, and teaching your kids the same. It will not only be good for reducing the amount of time you and your family are spending online but it can also help nurture your creativity.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves


I have a secret: I was actually thrilled when my learning-disabled daughter began playing an age-appropriate video game. She struggled for years with these games, but almost overnight, seemed to have mastered one her dad also likes. Pretty cool, right?

The downside is that, like most kids, she would rather play lots of games than read a single chapter in a book. I’m still happy with her accomplishment but it must be balanced with other offline activities. So as great as it is that she’s finally found something she enjoys, I still have to remind myself to encourage screen-free time as well. What lies are you telling yourself that encourages your child to spend more time on tech?

6 House Rules for Setting Boundaries


Once you’ve taken a good look at those very difficult questions and answered them honestly, you can begin creating boundaries for your child. Technology addiction often takes place among all family members, so make sure that you and your children abide by these 6 rules:

  1. Create Tech-Free Zones

    We have one big rule: NO phones or tablets while we’re eating; that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. In our home, after-dinner snacks are a time to turn off the TV and read together. We also keep all our devices on the first floor to ensure that our kids aren’t sneaking in extra screen time. Using a family contract can keep everyone in the family informed of your house rules for digital devices and tech-free times.

  2. Turn Wi-Fi Off

    Turning of your Wi-Fi is an easy way to create “tech-free” times in your home. Limiting your phone’s data plan is also an option rather than having an unlimited package; keep in mind, though, that overage charges are possible and can be expensive. Using a parental control solution gives parents the option to manage their child’s screen time by selecting days and times of the week they can access the Internet on their mobile or electronic device – at home and remotely.

  3. Optimize Screen Time

    Your family members are going to use smartphones and other devices, so do your best to encourage educational activities that engage the whole family or boosts a skill.

    Try suggesting some new apps or interests to your family that are outside of their norm; there are millions of e-books available on every topic and apps that encourage everything from STEM to creativity. For example, my daughter loves photos so I’m teaching her to take pictures with her tablet and using apps to hone that skill.

  4. Plan Tech-Free Family Activities

    While it’s fun to play a video game or watch a movie together, it’s also great if you can come up with activities that involve zero screen time. In my family, for example, a daily walk after dinner is something we do together whenever the weather is nice.

    Sunshine and fresh air can positively counteract too much screen time; playgrounds, swimming, hiking, bowling, laser tag, trampolines, library or bookstore events, seasonal activities, sports events, etc. are all good ideas. Libraries and community groups are also a great resource for finding age-appropriate local events that the whole family can enjoy.

  5. Leave the Phone Behind

    For any trip that’s under an hour, just leave the phone at home if you can or leave it in your car. Don’t give it to the kids while you’re waiting for food to arrive at a restaurant, are waiting in line at the grocery checkout, or other “wait” times for activities. You’ll set yourselves up for a bad habit that is very difficult to break down the road.

    Make sure you keep this rule for date night too! Even though you’ll need your phone for babysitter emergencies, resist the temptation to use it at all while you’re connecting with your significant other.

  6. Create Boundaries

    Creating a list of what your children must do before they turn on the TV, gaming device, tablet or phone will help enforce the idea that screen time is a privilege.

    This doesn’t just have to include chores and duties but it can also include other activities that they find enjoyable, like crafts, reading, or indoor and outdoor playtime. You could even take this one step further by encouraging learning and finding time to help others through volunteering. My family loves using this printable list of summer screen time rules to ensure that there is a bit of structure when our kids have extra free time during time off school.

How Parental Controls Support Healthy Screen Time


Managing your family’s digital addiction may not be an easy task but taking advantage of parental control software, like Net Nanny, can make a world of difference in setting boundaries around technology use. Net Nanny gives parents the visibility they desire into what their kids are doing online as well as the ability to make decisions regarding their child’s digital life with ease by offering a number of tools that keep kids safe and healthy online.

For families striving to lessen technology addiction, Net Nanny’s screen time management feature will be a helpful asset in doing so. Limiting screen time and setting regular schedules can help your family manage their dependence on technology without the fights. Technology is a great tool for children, but like everything else, moderation is key. Don’t let them spend their entire life in front of a screen when a whole world of activity awaits them.

Gina Badalaty

Gina Badalaty

Gina Badalaty is a lifestyle blogger for moms raising kids with special needs. She is passionate about living a nontoxic life, inclusion for kids with disabilities and technology to help kids thrive.