July 19, 2024
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Establishing Rules and Boundaries Around Technology: Is There Really a Problem?

In our previous article we discussed how the summer experience can provide youth with a break from technological devices. Having our kids away without their devices provides parents with an invaluable opportunity to rethink and reset some of the household rules related to the use of technological devices in the home.

Setting limits and boundaries around technology is not all that different from setting limits and boundaries around other issues that arise in day-to-day interactions with our children. Consider the following three examples:

1) When children don’t complete their school work or perform poorly on exams, consequences are implemented to increase positive school performance.

2) When teenagers don’t comply with curfew times, privileges are taken away to improve compliance with the rules.

3) When siblings fight in the home, parents implement new procedures to de-escalate sibling fighting.

In all of the above examples we identified a problem that necessitates a specific intervention to reduce the frequency of the problematic behavior. Setting limits and boundaries around technology is predicated on the assumption that there is an identified problem that is having an impact on my child’s functioning. As you are reading this article, you may be thinking that we can’t really include technology on the list of problems that impact the lives of our kids.

Consider the following three arguments:

1) The reality of the world today is different from the reality of the world 10-15 years ago.

2) While my kid may be on his/her phone a little too much (and perhaps you are a parent who wants to set rules and guidelines), he/she is getting good grades in school and he/she is adjusting socially. My kid is happy so why should I “rock the boat”?

3) How am I going to set limits on technology when all of my child’s friends have complete access to their devices?

Each of the above three points does have some merit. The reality of today’s world is different and the use of technology may not have a negative impact of my child’s academic or social functioning. However, researchers suggest that there are strong reasons for parents to limit the technology use of children.

1) Children have different interests and different innate talents. Developing these talents requires effort and focus, which becomes exacerbated when children spend excessive time on technological devices.

2) Multitasking is a myth! A child doing more than one thing at a time (studying for a test when checking social media) means they are not really focusing on the present academic task! A good score on the exam does not validate that multitasking is an acceptable means for school preparation.

3) The development of emotional intelligence is enhanced when children can communicate face-to-face, in both ordinary and difficult circumstances. (This includes conflict with parents, conflict with friends or other forms of difficulty in the lives of our children.)

In our next article, I look forward to developing these three points while providing some practical tips for parents to set healthy boundaries around technology.

By Mark Staum


Mark Staum, LCSW, provides evidence-based psychotherapy to children, adolescents and families. Over the past 15 years Mark has provided effective strategies to parents on how to communicate effectively with children and adolescents around issues of conflict and life challenges. Mark also provides children with coping skills to manage conflict, anxiety, school difficulties and familial challenges. For any questions on this article or to reach Mark directly, he can be reached at 201-952-4436 or [email protected].

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