voiceBoks® - The Voice of Parenthood
teens and technology

6 Rules for Tweens, Teens and Technology

Tweens, teens and tech – nightmare!!!

Lots of people are doing lots of talking about setting rules for kids around their use of technology and that’s a really good thing. We don’t have to look far to find examples of how tech is damaging (as well as enhancing) the lives of our kids – it leaks into everything doesn’t it? Family life, school life, social life, private life. Nothing is untouched by tech these days – unless you are super strict and have none in your house.. in which case I guess you won’t be reading this..

teens and technology

Anywho …

While there is a lot written ‘telling’ parents to set rules, I’ve noticed there isn’t quite as much practical advice written about what exact rules can be set. And so parents are still left scratching their heads somewhat – it’s not as if we grown-ups can refer to what our parents did. We are still coming to terms with this shiny new toy ourselves!

Educational and life enhancing as it is, technology use really needs to be contained. Starting off with rules and sticking to them is the way to go. For sure. Kids will not set their own boundaries, they are not equipped to do so and not only that, but they are relying on us to do this for them.

Teen Exhaustion as a Result of Technological Overuse

Several weeks ago a thirteen year old boy that I work with told me he’d been awake ’til 3am gaming  – an over 18’s game, but that’s not the main point. The main point that struck me was this – he said he was exhausted. That he couldn’t concentrate in school. I agreed that he certainly looked tired.

He said “Ya… I know… I wish my parents would notice that…”. (They had by the way, they just weren’t quite sure what to do about it)

He said it would be easier for him if they just took it from him, turned off the modem, set rules. That way he’d sleep better and be able to blame them when his gaming buddies whined that he wasn’t online. He thought it was nice that they trusted him but seriously – how could he resist the temptation??

Rules must be set, much as we want to communicate trust to our young people. One way to communicate that trust is to set rules and then trust them to play ball.

My suggestion is pretty old school: write a list of rules, stick them up on a wall, or several walls and be ready to discuss in advance and then issue consequences (not necessarily punishments) for rule breakage.

These consequences will be removal of privileges  – tech related privileges will likely work best (also known as  ‘logical consequence’ and I’ll discuss the difference between logical consequences, natural consequences and punishment in another post).

Don’t worry, none of this is too late, even if you are already at teenager stage. You can still introduce new rules as long as there’s consistency. The more consistent you are, the more likely they’ll stick.

Rule suggestions

Remember, these are just suggestions, you can adapt for your family.

  1. No electronic devices to be used in any way during meals.
  2. Ideally have a bowl or a box to temporarily chuck them into. Y’know – gently. Note your own discomfort with this idea (are you resisting it already??) This is where we need to model the behaviour we expect. If you don’t, you’ll look like a hypocrite to the acutely sharp teenaged eye and also it will definitely get thrown into your face during a future argument! Phone etiquette is a modern social skill – we all need to adapt, learn it and teach it!

  3. Homework first.
  4. Lots of homes have a rule where TV (or whatever) is turned on as soon as the school bag hits the floor – that’s certainly what happened in my house. My suggestion is though that access to tech happens only after homework and/or a small household job or two or done.

    The benefits will be long-term – your child will learn self-discipline, patience, and responsibility. It will also help them avoid the distraction and procrastination that goes with TV watching and it will enhance their enjoyment of said distraction when they finally get to it – because nothing will be hanging over them. We need to teach relaxation and reward too!

  5. Screens off at the same time every night.
  6. We know that the blue light emitted by screens, even small screens like phone interferes with the production of melatonin. This is bad news for sleepy time. And that’s bad news for pretty much everything from academic performance to overall physical and mental health.

    (Goes for adults too… #JustSayin’)

  7. Bedrooms should be tech-free zones.
  8. I have two reasons for suggesting this –

    1. The sleepy time issue as above
    2. The ability to monitor what your child/teen is accessing (or what/who, is accessing them) is zero if the tech is in their bedroom.

    Allowing your teen to have a TV/tablet in their bedroom will only encourage them to use it. Plus it will be nearly impossible to monitor what they’re doing. Another idea is to have phones shut down at night and handed over to you until morning. There are thousands of kids all over the world texting and snapping into the small hours and wandering around like zombies the next day. You can prevent this. And they can blame you if they get grief from friends who didn’t get the replies they wanted late at night. Two birds, one stone.

  9. Use of Electronic Devices Should Be in Front of You
  10. And while I’m there, all devices should be used in front of you so you can see what your kids are accessing and monitor for inappropriate content. It’s true that other parents may not be this vigilant, but at least while they are in your home you can protect them in this way.

    I’ve heard parents say they’ll access stuff elsewhere so what’s the point?! This may well be true if you have a normal child! However, if they have an anchor to refer to – i.e. your rules- it’s more likely that they will be aware of what’s OK and what isn’t, even if they access it. And that’s always a good thing.

  11. Have Passwords?
  12. I’ve mentioned before in a piece about sexting that having passwords to your child’s social media is really important. And again – they may have duplicate accounts, they may have spare phones – it happens! You can only do your best to teach this stuff and have these conversations. Have a look at that post for some “how to’s” and there are other posts on this site to peruse.

    A friend of mine recently snapchatted a funny selfie of herself and hubby to her 13 year old daughter’s friends – risky but genius! The daughter took it very well, surprisingly, not without eye rolling, but the real gold was this – now all the daughter’s friends know that her parents have access to her snapchat. Instantly reducing the risk of nastiness or inappropriate photos or comments coming her way.

    Good isn’t it??! You may not like this of course, every parent has there own style and that’s OK.

    But please do have conversations about security online, how to block people, how to limit/ restrict people and how to be wise about who to follow and who to ‘friend’. Now I know that clocking up millions of friends is what your child will want to do and there is a limit to what you can control. But this is not a reason to avoid the discussion. As with everything, we need to anchor ideas and standards so that we and they can refer to them. Added bonus is that they can then blame the strict annoying adults if they need a ‘get-out’.

  13. Disclosing Online Information
  14. Warn your kids not to disclose family information online. It can be embarrassing and shaming on a personal level (“My brother’s girlfriend dumped him LOL”) and it can be unsafe (“Excited for family trip to Florida tomorrow!”)  – the local burglar industry will be thrilled with that one!

    Incidentally – I’ve seen adults do this too – be mindful that people use social media to target houses as well as people.

    So here y’go – feel free to print if you think it’s a fit for you family. Depending on your child(ren’s) age(s) you may want to tweak here and there:

    Rules for tech
    Our house tech rules – disobey at your own risk!

    To sum up – we know that screen time is linked to obesity, sleep issues, violence, behavioural issues, social issues, educational problems as well as all the good stuff of course. Setting boundaries and rules around its use will benefit the whole family – especially if you get creative and come up with fun and interesting alternatives! (No pressure… ;))
    And really, I know it’s hard, I’m a total addict myself.

    Good luck!

Sally O'Reilly

Sally O'Reilly

Sally O’Reilly is an IAHIP, ICP and EAP accredited Counselling Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor with nearly twenty years of professional experience. Her particular area of expertise and interest is work with teenagers. She enjoys a busy full-time private practice and has developed and facilitated a personal development, substance misuse and sexual health programme for teenagers for over 15 years. She is a regular contributor to national print and radio media.
Sally is also the co-author of Two Wise Chicks.
Feel free to follow Sally on: Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I remember wanting TV in my bedroom as a kid and my parents were totally against it. I am so worried for kids these days that practically sleep with their phones in their hands! Your tips are great. I hope more teens and parents see them.

    • Thank you Doran – I hope so too! Feel free to share the piece with any friends you might have that are parenting – that will help get the word around 🙂 I really appreciate your taking the time to read and feedback – warmly,

  • Yes! mad respect for this post! thank you for not only speaking up but also providing brilliant solutions! I cant tell you how annoying it is when I see kids younger than I was with cellphones and never stopping to even look up. it’s like their lost in the phones.
    Granted I can get that way sometimes too haha so I will def take heed to your solutions.

  • There has to be rules for technology because it can be chaotic without them. Technology is a major help but it can hinder if you let it.

  • I am not ready for my girls to be teens. I know they’re going to most likely use a lot of technology too. I have always made my girls do homework first, even though they’re young yet and don’t get much of it. I think that’s one of the most important things is to do homework right after school before anything else.

    • Hi Ana, I agree. If it’s possible to eat together as a family it’s a great foundation for conversation, discussion and problem solving. Thanks so much for reading, warmly, Sally

  • These are really great rules and I follow some of these with my tween grand kids. I no longer let them bring their devices to the table which is something I used to allow.

  • Great tips, I agree that homework should be done before any technology was permitted. My mom had similar rules growing up and I plan to create similar rules for my daughter.

  • These rules are spot on!! I have one friend who has a basket and when her kids come home, they must put their phone in the basket until they get chores done and dinner over. Like with all good parenting, electronics need to be monitored and consistently watched.

  • You are brilliant in reminding us that parents establish boundaries for children, in every arena. We just need to research those boundaries in technology. I need to revisit my own children’s techno rules and regs. Thank you.

  • These rules are spot on! I have been told by family members that I am too strict about devices, but there are too many dangers for tweens and teens, you have to be strict to teach them to be safe!

  • I am so blessed that I am now the parent of grown children. It is my own children who will have to deal with these issues with my grandchildren. Technology is advancing so quickly, this is something we all have to face and deal with in some way or another, isn’t it?

    • Hi Chloe, it is, it really is. We all have a role regardless of our age, our job, our position in society. We are all caretakers of our collective future. Thank you for reading, Warmly, Sally

    • Hi Cynthia, yes, it’s an issue. Tech is moving so fast though I believe that some parents are literally unaware of it and its potential – good and bad. Thank you for reading and commenting! Warmly, Sally

  • Great post! In my case, I need to learn to put the phone down first in order to create healthy boundaries so the kids can follow my example. We as parents are mirrors and our kids, believe it or not, are very observant. I shared this article on twitter as well.

    • Y’know Tiffany, you’re right actually. Younger than tweens. A lot younger.
      #FutureBlogPost. Thanks for the feedback and for taking the time to read and comment. Warmly, Sally

    • Hi Czjai, that sounds good to me and yes, as a previous commenter said, younger than tweens is a better time to start. 7 years olds need guidance too and you’ve made a superb start there by the sound of it. Thanks for reading and commenting! Warmly, Sally

  • These are all great rules for tweens and teens for use of technology. Turning the screen off each day at the same time even for adults is a great idea. Having the bedroom a tech free zone is an amazing idea. Thanks for sharing the rules.

About Author

Sally O'Reilly

Sally O'Reilly

Sally O’Reilly is an IAHIP, ICP and EAP accredited Counselling Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor with nearly twenty years of professional experience. Her particular area of expertise and interest is work with teenagers. She enjoys a busy full-time private practice and has developed and facilitated a personal development, substance misuse and sexual health programme for teenagers for over 15 years. She is a regular contributor to national print and radio media.
Sally is also the co-author of Two Wise Chicks.
Feel free to follow Sally on: Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin