Technology and Your Family – Establishing Healthy Boundaries
by Amy Diller

I will be the first to admit that my husband and I made mistakes in the area of technology with our kids. We let them use iPod Touches (yes, we’re that old) without much supervision. We allowed social media use before the recommended age by allowing them to put in an earlier birthdate. The one that I’ve thought about the most was letting them keep their iPhones in their bedrooms at night when they were older. Once the lack of healthy boundaries was unleashed, we felt stuck. We tried to backtrack on our permissiveness, and our kids fought back fiercely. It became an ongoing battle in our home. Our kids are in their early 20s now, and they’ve shared some of what they were exposed to via devices in their younger years. If we had known then what we know now, healthier boundaries would have been set.

As parents, we do know there are benefits to technology, and at the same time, we understand enough of the negatives to want to make wise decisions in this area. Whether you are just beginning to think about this topic or need to revise what you have in place, be encouraged that you can establish a great plan for technology in your home.



Before we can implement rules for our kids, we need to take a careful look at our own technology practices. As we are honest with ourselves about how we personally utilize tech, we are better able to model healthy behavior for our kids. We can’t hear it enough; kids learn far more from what we do than what we say. Even very young children closely observe and internalize our actions. Consider these questions as you evaluate:

      How often do I do anything or go anywhere without my cell phone?

      Do I use my phone and/or tablet as a distraction in many settings?

      Am I on my phone and/or tablet more than I’m giving attention to my kids and other activities?

      Do my spouse and I have access to the information on each other’s devices as accountability partners?

      Do I practice cell-free times at home?

      Am I obeying laws regarding cell use while driving?


Technology Plan

If you have very young children, it’s not too early to think about the rules you are going to set as a family. If you’re already in the midst of navigating technology with your kids, it’s never too late either to examine the boundaries you’ve established and make changes if necessary. Things to think about as you create family rules for tech:

      Establish your non-negotiable rules that are not open for discussion, such as no device usage behind closed doors.

      Include your kids in discussing items to be included in the plan.

      Determine tech-free zones and times. Places and times to consider are during meals, doing homework, riding in the car, in bedrooms, during family activity time, etc. Overnight should be a non-negotiable tech-free time. Store everyone’s devices in your bedroom.

      Determine the amount of free time you’ll allow on devices—including television, online videos, apps, and video games.

      Establish consequences when choosing not to follow any part of the plan. Kids can have input here. Many will offer consequences that fit the “crime” better than we can.

      Brainstorm ways your family can use technology in a positive manner. Tech is not an evil to be avoided at all costs; it does provide great tools and resources that can be used in fun and educational ways.

      Let your kids know that you will take into account what they have suggested, but you will have the final say.


Technology Contract

After you’ve planned your technology rules, it’s time to write out a contract. Make it official-looking to convey its importance. Sit down together to read through the contract and make sure everyone understands it. Then, all family members sign it to show their pledge to follow it. As you are completing this part, think about these items:

      Share the why behind the boundaries you’ve set in age-appropriate ways. Kids need to know rules are in place to keep them safe, to help them learn to use technology responsibly, to help them grow in a healthy way, and to value family time above everything else.

      Tell your kids that you’ll revisit and revise the contract as needed to fit your growing and changing family. 

      Go through the consequences for not adhering to the contract.

      Post the contract in a family space as a reminder of what you’ve all agreed to abide by.

      Once this is all set, it’s your responsibility to monitor your kids and be diligent learners of new tech as it comes out, as well as apps and videos your kids want to use and are using.

      It’s absolutely encouraged to pull back on the reins if you find your rules need to be stricter or loosen them if they’re too strict.

You’ll never be able to know everything about every facet of the world of technology, so relying on the Holy Spirit to guide you is the best wisdom you can seek. Look for advice from other parents with similarly aged kids as well as those who have older kids. Discussions around this topic are very helpful as you learn from one another and see rules through a different set of eyes. Your kids’ church leaders can provide you with materials or point you to tools to aid you in creating your own plan for your family. In the end, providing important and beneficial boundaries gives our kids a much-needed sense of security and confirmation of your love.