How to Limit Kids' Access to Technology

Learn some top tips setting limitations on technology usage without banning it from your home.

Cherylyn Feierabend,
June 14, 2010
Episode #160

My family is a family of technology users. My husband is a techie, I am a techie, and we are raising two more little techies in this technological world. You can try to escape it, but your kids probably can't, and don't want to, anyway. Computers, internet, video games, and hand-held devices are becoming more common every day. Chances are your child will use computers in school and then, later down the road, in a job situation. Letting your children use technology at home will prepare them for a world filled with it. The idea of eliminating it entirely seems impossible to me, but I know there are families who try and families who do. I, personally, don’t recommend that route. There are better ways to handle the incredible influx of super-information our kids have access too and mostly, it’s all about being involved.

Where Should Kids Have Access?

Let me start by saying that I don’t really feel that kids need to have internet access on hand-held devices such gaming systems, mobile phones, or iPods. If your child has a Nintendo DS or an iPod, there are plenty of activities on those devices to keep them busy without internet access. Family computers and some video gaming consoles will have plenty of internet for kids to consume. I recommend being aware and actively available when your kids are using these items, especially when surfing the internet. Keep computers and video games in common rooms of your house. If you allow your kids to have access in a private space, you are limiting your ability to know what is happening. Communicate with your kids, have them show you their favorite websites, and allow them to create bookmarks to their favorite sites for easy access. This can help you prevent them from wandering off into inappropriate website content as well. You can also set your search engine filters to strictly filter out explicit results. There are also many programs available that you can install on your computer to block any suggestive content sites. I have a list of links below that offer different levels and methods of security. I especially recommend using one of these programs for younger children, as well as children who need more supervision or who seem to be extra curious while exploring the Internet.

How Much Time is Acceptable?

Creating bookmarks to your kid's favorite sites allows him to access them easily, and can prevent him from wandering onto inappropriate websites.

The next step in setting limitations is the limiting part. When should kids have access, and how long should they be able to use their technology of choice? I definitely think this can and will vary both by kid, day, and type of technology. Video games alone should be time regulated. It’s difficult to do based on many factors. It’s nice to have the kids occupied so you can get some grown-up stuff done, but don’t fall into the trap of enjoying that time so much that you let them play for hours. Another difficulty is getting the child to agree to stop playing. If you have these issues, you might want to consider investing in one of those timers that automatically stops the game after a specified amount of time daily. This takes the blame off of you and also, doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the situation. The time limits you set are personal. I can’t tell you how long to let your children play. Everyone has different opinions on this topic and I’ll simply suggest that you make sure your children have a good balance of physical play, outdoor play, imaginative-independent play, and plenty of quality social time with you and their peers. Game-time, in my opinion, should be counted separately from educational time or research. If your kids are using the computer for homework or research, that time should not be counted against them for playtime. We all need our playtime, and if video games bring us joy, we should have our time to enjoy them. So if you are using technology as a reward, such as 30 minutes a day for finishing your chores or homework, don’t count the 10 minutes your son used researching his science project ideas against him.

What Else Can Help?

There are such a variety of topics that arise when you talk about kids and computers, the internet, and video games. There are people who love it and people who detest the idea completely. I’m all for it. The fact is that the more we are involved with our kids, the more we will learn. The more our kids are involved with technology, the better prepared they will be to deal with it in the future.

Some people are concerned that their children will become lethargic, or will lose their desire to exercise daily. There are ways to incorporate the two ideas. We own the Smart Cycle, a few dancing games such as Dance Dance Revolution, and even a skateboarding game where the skateboard attaches to the TV and the kids play the game by standing on the board and leaning this way and that. All of these games promote exercise and movement. We still don’t let them play the games all the time, but when it’s too hot to go outside due to 110 degree weather and a swimming pool isn’t readily available, these are good options for indoor fun. Dance Dance Revolution is a GREAT family game and we could definitely all benefit from the cardio it provides. I think I’ll need to drag that one out today and get moving myself.

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This is your friend the Mighty Mommy wishing you happy and fun parenting!