By Lee Binz
It’s a new world, with changes we could not have imagined years ago. Many of the changes are awesome and wonderful, and yet there are things that are very concerning. Experts are now warning us about a new problem called "Digital Dementia" caused by overuse of technology (1). Some children as young as 4 years old are so addicted to digital devices that they require psychological treatment (2). Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow warns that social media "may also be the tobacco industry of our times – one day facing massive lawsuits for fueling anxiety disorders and mood disorders in millions of people."
Even with all these concerns, the public schools emphasize, promote, and encourage online learning that may not be appropriate for all children. Thankfully, as homeschoolers we get to determine boundaries for our own children. But how do you determine appropriate technology boundaries that work for you and your family? Let’s talk about common sense boundaries that work, why they're important, and symptoms of big technology issues.
12 Reasons for Setting Technology Boundaries
- Personal safety concerns from revealing too much online
- Protecting children from cyber-bullying, or ensuring they don’t bully others
- Preventing exposure to pornography and inappropriate language and interactions
- Sleep disorders resulting from technology use before bed and sleep interruptions during the night when digital devices are in the bedroom
- Safety problems involving texting while driving and even walking without situational awareness
- Technology can rewire the brain, causing memory problems and difficulty thinking clearly (3)
- Technology can interfere with normal childhood experiences and development
- Violent games have been linked with acts of aggression
- Digital use can mean less social interaction and eye contact
- Excessive use can cause fidgety, inattentive symptoms imitating ADHD
- Technology overuse can cause mental disorders and stress-related illnesses
- Video games are designed to be addictive (4)
10 Ways to Create Wholesome Technology Boundaries
- Control the Location Start with the easiest way to control technology – location. Many of the major problems created by technology can be solved by simply controlling the location of all digital devices. No computers or cell phones in the bedroom or bathroom, or at the dining table. Keep technology in public areas where you can easily supervise use. Keep all screens facing public areas of your home, to monitor appropriate online interaction.
- Control Time Set a clear time limit and set a timer to monitor it. Consider limiting digital device usage to one or two hours per day, unless being used for a homeschool project. Set clear expectations of no internet use after bedtime.
- Control Content You can invest in Covenant Eyes (5) Filtering System or McAfee Safe Eyes (6) to establish parental control of the content accessed on the computer. Regularly check the download history and browsing history of all devices. Monitor social media, and for younger teens, parents should possess all passwords to their accounts.
- Control Safety
- Make sure children do not give personal information about themselves online that could be used by strangers. Ensure children never send extremely personal photos of any kind, or of any person, or pass along photos others send to them online.
- Exchange Activities Exchange digital devices for non-tech fun. Replace screen time with reading, projects, or family games. Consider having one or more “unplugged” nights each week so children understand what it’s like to have fun without the internet. Make sure the evening is FUN - with games, activities, and social time without electronic devices.
- Model Behavior Parents can demonstrate self-control regarding technology. Show children that there are times for appropriate use of technology, but other times when it’s important to be free of digital media.
- Family Meeting Spend time as a family discussing technology. Teach personal safety regarding cyber-bullying, pornography, sexting, and other issues as you see them in the news. Explain that your job as a parent is to check phones, social media accounts, and computer internet surfing history to ensure the safety of the entire family.
- Teach Discernment Explain what is appropriate in the context of each device. Reinforce family rules. No inappropriate language or posting anything mean about anyone. No harassing or texting insulting comments about others, even when teens think the comments are private. Explain that the internet is forever, and even when something is “deleted” it is really just hidden and can still be easily discovered. Discuss digital addiction, personal safety, and future consequences of online behavior.
- Establish Expectations Set clear boundaries on technology use, and then provide clear cause-and-effect consequences for violating family rules. Breaking rules demonstrates that teens are not able to moderate their own behavior, and you will need to do that for them by removing the device causing difficulty. Consistently following rules means teens are able to control their own behavior and can handle additional trust.
- Create Balance Create a balanced educational plan. Teach technological skills, keyboarding and coding, providing 21st Century skills. At the same time, balance online education with non-digital, non-electronic coursework. Go technology-free and low-tech for coursework when possible. Seek a balance between fun involving technology and recreation that does not involve technology of any kind.
9 Real Family Examples of Setting Successful Technology Boundaries
These parents shared some wonderful ideas on The HomeScholar Facebook Page about successful boundaries that work in the homes of real families like yours.
- Meals are for food and family, not technology. The rule is "no toys at the table" and that includes tech gadgets and books.
~Dorie, Shannon, and Dawn
- All technology must be brought to our designated place at bedtime. When the children forget, or if I have to remind them, they lose the privilege for using that device the following day.
- Technology must be turned in at the end of the day, with gadgets placed in chargers, or children aren't allowed technology the next day. No technology when friends are over unless it's specifically a planned "game" time.
- Computer time is limited to the common area, where everyone in the family can easily see the screen. Children earn screen time through good behavior, or by reading real books. Parent screen time is only used when children are not around.
- Nobody plays video games unless we ALL play video games.
- When anyone is spoken to, their technology must be turned over, closed, or turned off, giving the speaker their undivided attention. We don’t allow technology in cars, because that is where family can come together and can share with each other, uninterrupted.
- Video games are allowed if it is raining outside and the child is done with all other work or school. Isolation is not allowed, so children can’t play alone, and are limited to one hour
- Gaming and videos are allowed only on weekends when we do not have outings. This usually amounts to two evenings a weekend at most. Otherwise, no TV or technology, because children have a lot of living to do!
- We put all phones and handheld devices in a basket during dinner time. No-one is allowed to take their device out until dad says the meal time is over. We turn off all media at 9:00 so our brains have time to calm down and our spirits have time for quiet reflection before bed.
11 Long-term Consequences of Excessive Technology Use
There are long-term, serious consequences of excessive technology use. Internet gaming disorder in particular is now mentioned in the appendix of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) as a condition for which more research is required. (7) Consider these long-term consequences of excessive technology use.
- Social media comparisons can cause intense feelings of loneliness or jealousy. Facebook has been called a “significant public health threat” by Dr. Ablow due to various studies. (8)
- Digital dementia, deterioration of cognitive abilities, similar to a head injury or psychiatric illness can occur. People who rely on electronic devices often can't remember important everyday details of life.
- Brain development can be affected. Heavy digital users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side less used or underdeveloped.
- Memory is damaged. The right side of the brain is linked with concentration and its failure to develop will affect attention span and memory. (9)
- An Inside Higher Ed article (10) warns that 2 million US college students are addicted to computer games.
- Excessive gaming is linked to lower academic performance.
- Colleges are seeing a variety of internet-related disorders treated at campus health centers, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and social phobias.
- Increased suicide risk.
- Using technology to escape real life.
- Depression and sadness.
- Digital addiction: when a person lives much of their life online, and excessive internet or device use interferes with activities of daily living or social relationships.
12 Symptoms of Serious Technology Abuse
How can you tell if your teenager has serious technology issues? You will notice deteriorating social relationships and severe sleep disturbance, including waking up to check their digital devices or go online in the middle of the night. Their nutritional balance may suffer as they eat too little, too much, or consume only junk food. You may become concerned about lying and sneaking behaviors tied to the internet. School performance and job performance are affected. The child may exhibit depression or anger issues. They may show a strange euphoric happiness when online and a restlessness, irritability, or panic when offline. They often feel guilty about their technology use and feel that something isn’t quite right. They may experience blurred vision, headaches, or muscle aches related to constant use of technology. Watch for one big risk factor that can determine if excessive use will become an addiction:
If a person is using technology to escape an aspect of daily life, then their technology use is more likely to cause severe problems.
Check this list for symptoms of internet abuse developed by digital addiction specialists. Three or four “yes” answers suggest serious issues and five or more suggest addiction, according to Dr. Hilarie Cash, PhD. (11)
- Increasing amounts of time spent on computer and internet activities
- Failed attempts to control behavior
- Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and internet activities
- Craving more time on the computer and internet
- Neglecting friends and family
- Feeling restless when not engaged in the activity
- Being dishonest with others
- Computer use interfering with job/school performance
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of behavior
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
- Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities
Technology is such a blessing, and can bring people together in wonderful ways. But technology can also be a curse - used by evil people, or affecting individuals prone to addiction. This is a new world, with new world problems. Wise parents educate themselves so they are aware of issues and can steer children clear of unnecessary bumps in the road to adulthood.
What boundaries do YOU have for technology use in your home?
Prevent the Zombie Apocalypse!
Set Technology Boundaries for Teens!
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Citations, Helpful Resources, and Additional Reading
- (1) Surge in Digital Dementia
- (2) Toddlers Becoming So Addicted to iPads They Require Therapy
- (3) Shocking Ways the Internet Rewires the Brain
- (4) Kids’ Video Games for Profit
- (5) Covenant Eyes Filtering System
- (6) McAfee Safe Eyes
- (7) Internet Gaming Disorder in the DSM-5 (PDF Download)
- (8) Studies show Facebook may be true, significant public health threat
- (9) How Technology Is Warping Your Memory
- (10) Excessive Gaming Linked to Lower Academic Performance
- (11) Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction by Dr. Hilarie Cash, PhD. NetAddictionRecovery.com
- Resource: Internet Addiction and how it Relates to Homeschooling
- Moderating the Internet in Your Family by Mark Gregston of Heartlight Ministries
- How gadgets and the internet are turning us into a nation of emotional basket cases
- Research ties excessive use of technology to poor health for young adults
- Internet Addiction Disorder
- Time Monitor Parental Control Software limits the time kids spend on the computer. You determine when they can access the computer and for how long. Free to try.
It's a new world
Parenting has always been challenging, but these days the hardest parts of parenting involve navigating around ever-changing gadgets and technology. Whether dealing with phones, tablets, computers, social media, or video games, parents need help managing this new electronic environment. Like brushing their teeth and eating their vegetables, kids need to know why healthy media habits are important.
Wake up! Pay attention!
Misuse of technology is a real and present danger that can lead to a zombie apocalypse in your home. This eye-opening book offers hope for parents battling the technology monster. Learn how to deal with the harsh reality of technology in your home and how to set technology boundaries for healthy and happy children and teens.
“Lee Binz has hit the nail smack on the head for clearly identifying the impact technology is having on our children, families, and schools, and what to do about it. TechnoLogic demystifies a very complex issue, helping readers to sort out problem areas and identify solutions. TechnoLogic is for everyone who cares about creating better lives for children.”
~ Cris Rowan, Occupational Therapist and Author of Virtual Child
“Lee Binz deftly guides parents about the dangers that accompany gaming and internet addiction in this valuable book. Follow her advice, end the power struggles with your children and teens over their technology use, and be well on your way to rebuilding harmony in your family life.”
~ Kim McDaniel, M.A. Family Therapist, Author, and Parent Coach
Copyright © 2014 The HomeScholar LLC, www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com. Text may be reprinted without permission if used in full, except for use in a book or other publication for rent or for sale. Reprint must include this copyright, bio (below), and the original URL link (https://homehighschoolhelp/technologic-setting-boundaries-on-technology).
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com.