Top 3 Technology Usage Ground Rules & Consequences for Kids

Image 2Note: This is the first blog post in a series that will provide tips for kids using technology, including smartphones. In this post I’ll cover ground rules for using technology while at home. In the next post I’ll cover technology use while away from home (while driving, at school, extracurricular activities and more).

Just about anywhere you turn these days you see someone on their mobile phone – whether it’s walking down the street, sitting at a table in a restaurant, in the doctor’s office, you get the idea. And teens are no exception.

In fact, according to Pew Internet Research, 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds now own mobile phones.

It’s important for parents to have open conversations with their children about how to use their mobile phone safely and responsibly. For instance, statistics show that 65% of teens text late at night when they should be sleeping and 64% of teens with cell phones have texted in class. As parents, we need to understand the technology our kids are using and set ground rules.

Remind your kids that having a mobile phone – which is really a mini-computer – is a privilege and then clearly communicate the THREE important ground rules listed below and the corresponding consequences.

In addition to the ground rules, there are some great new apps, that can help you avoid the power struggles of reminding and nagging your kids about the rules. As a spokesperson for Sprint, I’ve been testing out a new bundle of mobile apps called Sprint Guardian, which I explain in more detail below.

Rule # 1 – Require access to all email and social media accounts and know their passwords. Let them know UP FRONT that you’ll periodically check text messages, emails and social media accounts. It’s not spying on them – you are giving them fair warning that you’ll be checking.

Rule #2 – Implement a technology curfew – phones, computers and gaming devices must be turned off during meals and by 9 PM each night (or earlier if your child is in middle school).

One application within Sprint Guardian I find particularly helpful is called Mobile Controls. It allows parents to lock their kids’ phones (so they can’t talk, text, use apps, etc.) on demand or schedule locks during dinner, school or late at night. Kids lose enough sleep to homework and extracurricular activities – the last thing they should be doing is spending hours texting with friends when they should be sleeping.

Rule #3 – Make bedrooms off-limits for technology. Require that computers and smartphones be used in public spaces and charged in a central area – like the kitchen. In addition to removing the temptation for kids, it gives you an opportunity to randomly check texts and emails.

Be very clear about the consequences. If your child won’t comply with your technology rules, the technology goes away. First offense – they will lose their technology privileges for one week. Second offense – they lose their technology privileges indefinitely. That means they’ll have to use the computers at the public library for homework and go back to the bare bones, most basic mobile phone without texting capability and internet access..

We can’t control our kids but we can control the environment and take away that temptation to use their phone at inappropriate times. Instead of physically taking the phone away, I have found the Sprint Guardian applications really helpful, convenient and affordable. Sprint Mobile Controls, Sprint Drive First and Sprint Family Locator are available as a Family Safety bundle for $9.99 per month for up to five lines on the same account. To learn more, visit or to watch a video, click here.

Stay tuned for a future blog post regarding how to keep kids safe while using technology – even when you aren’t there to see how they’re using it!

I’d love to hear comments from you below about how you manage and monitor your kids’ technology usage at home.

  1. Thank you for these tips! My boys are still young, but you are helping me build a foundation to grow with them. I wouldn’t have any idea on how to address these issues by the time they arise. My boys already like most children have preschool video games. I have already set rules without knowing any certain solution. I can use this tip to help teach my boys fundamentals of appropriate game playing times beyond limited time to play. Thanks again

  2. Thanks for posting these. My boys — 4 and 6 — are obsessive (in my view) about wanting to play games on the ipad/iphone. It’s the first thing my son (6) asks for when he gets home from school. We have a set schedule when he gets home — snack, homework, then free time (which is ALWAYS a video game). And his screen time limit (ALL screens) is 1 hr per day. And yet, it still really bugs me — the insistence to want to continually play games. I feel like he it is stifling him. What are your thoughts on setting daily time limits– what amount is appropriate?

  3. Our children are also young (6 & 8), but in addition to daily screen limits (also an hour, total), we have media-free days. During the summer they can consume media on Mon, Thur & Sat (they chose the days) – none on the other days, unless we decide as a family to watch a movie together (rarely). During the school year, there is NO MEDIA (other than school-related computer use) on school days, and media days become Fri, Sat & Sun. We’ve found that when they know that video games aren’t even an option it is easier for them to find something else to engage their time/minds. They don’t beg for “more” on those days, because there wasn’t any to begin with!

  4. You are a complete control freak. All of these “ground rules” are ridiculous for a teenager. If we don’t give them freedom to manage their lives responsibly now, they’ll be completely lost in college. Raising kids with appropriate amounts of freedom and giving them the choice to make the right decisions will benefit them more in the long run. Also, reading through your kid’s texts is just a violation of privacy, and its not productive. unless you suspect their getting into some kind of serious trouble, this is an inappropriate action to take. as a final note, if you are a reasonable parent that gives your teen reasonable freedoms, and doesn’t unnecessarily encroach on their privacy, you will find you develop a better relationship with them.

    • You must be a teenager.

    • You absolutely MUST be a teenager!

    • I couldn’t agree more. I have seen it too many times, where parents think they are helping their kids by placing curfews on technology and filtering the web. However, all this accomplishes is kids who will become used to not being allowed to make their own decisions. So, as soon as they can escape their parents’ total control, (e.g. going to college) they will have great impulses to do the things that were not allowed to do at home (like developing a porn addiction). Also, my kids have told me that they feel untrusted when I restrict their technology access. If a parent has the option to not create a negative bond with their child, then they should always choose to do that. Knowing that your child feels trusted is a precious feeling that can easily be squashed by unecessary restrictions.

  5. I found this very helpful… We have a 17 year old that we gave complete freedom and it back fired HORRIBLY! We had to take his phone away, and put him on restriction. Apparently freedom isn’t a good idea until they earn it. We have just given him back his phone with the restrictions still in place, but he doesn’t listen. I think I’m going to try these apps and hopefully we’ll have some control then!

    • I agree these are great options. We have a son that has been perfect in everyway. We got him an iphone (dumb move, we now know). He got a gf. We have discovered they are sexting and not only via text but via face time, which is live video chat. He acts like a heroin addict when told we were taking the phone away. These electronics become terribly addictive. We had talked to my son about the law and sexting, he knew all these things, but hormones raging he didn’t think anyone would find out. Put your boundaries in place, that’s a parents job, that’s why we have cerfews and rules, this is just another avenue of guidance and parenting, not control!

    • So true!

  6. Great advice. We had a terrible time with our teen daughter. Hoping to have better luck the second time around with our boys.

  7. Here is the fundamental problem that i think people are missing: Kids today, especially born after 1996, have all grew up in the internet age. They haven’t known anything different. Games are cleverly designed to take advantage of the motivational systems set into humans through evolution, and give people a real sense of meaning and accomplishment. In comparison, life sucks because the feedback mechanisms (such as parental conversations, teachers, sense of accomplishment) don’t meet the same need that games do, or worse make us feel bad about an undesired outcome.

    Games draw kids in because they can learn and experiment because ‘failing’ is ok in the game. All people love to face challenges and over come them. Often times, we can’t overcome challenges the first time, and games show us that it is ok to try again.

    What is the solution? Make life more engaging like a game. Some successful new schools have done away with ‘home room’ ‘homework’ and ‘mid terms’ and replaced them with ‘group missions’ ‘quests’ and ‘boss levels’ all of which utilize academic skills. Civic engagement has increased through game design mechanics, and so has people’s ability to recover from injuries.

    Tired of your child always running away to a make believe world? Then try making the real world as stimulating as a game world!

  8. This sounds great, but when the technology was bought by the child, and placed in his bedroom due to space constraints, you lose the control you mention. How do you get the control you mention and eliminate the arguments then? The bedroom has become his go to zone for everything.

    • I agree with Fran. How do you get control back, when the you didn’t realize there would need to be the rules out of being naive to technology and the technology was purchased by the child or as a gift. The kids are addicted so taking control creates a crazy HEATED battle. Help!

    • Dayna, check out my reply to Fran, which I think would also apply to your comment. Thanks again for commenting!

    • ok your welcome

    • Thanks Fran, great question! That does pose some issues there, and I offer suggestions not actually knowing the age of your child. But you can still implement the security features offered on computers and iphones (parental codes and blocks, etc) as well as implement the other rules mentioned here. If the child cannot sign on to the device without the parental code, than there is no sneaking on without you knowing or outside of the allotted hours. You can also maintain a “open door” policy when your child is on the computer or device and keep iphones (or other smart phones) on a charger outside the child’s room at bedtime to eliminate late night texting. This is also a great time to implement a Technology COntract for your child, which clearly outlines what is and what is not OK, and what happens if the child violates the contract. And stand by it. :-) Hope that helps!

    • My son is 14 and we have a play station, and in his room is his computer and iPad. No where else to put his PC etc. Every night an hour before bed, he brings me his phone, and I change the Internet password. He only gets the password back if he gets up on time, behaves well and does his chores and any school work I have set him. Sometimes he will need the Internet for this.. So I let him have it. I can check on the browser history and on the router what he has been up to. I’ve learnt to ban certain words and sites through the ip login site.. This seems to work for us. On bad days even without the Internet.. I have been known to pull the fuses for the electrical sockets.. No Internet, no electric.. (Cue mad Momma chortles) it’s working so far!

  9. These are good tips, Amy. My husband and I find ourselves saying things like, “But we trust our kids…they would never text at night when they should be sleeping…” Hahaha! Even if that IS true for now, it’s much better to remove the temptation and set the ground rules NOW – because eventually it will be an issue. Thanks!

    • It’s always better to be prepared, when we can at least! Thanks for commenting Theresa!

  10. Hi there! We have totally lost all control with our 17 year old. He got a laptop for his birthday and we didn’t insist on parental controls… we should have. For us to even enter his room breaks into WWW III… he has aspergers and is VERY rigid… we, for so long were in survival mode, we didn’t realize we were giving him ALL the control. He is a senior now, and I feel it is way too late to put boundaries on him now. We absolutely have boundaries for our other 3 teens… that we need to make sure we keep in place. Yes, we do need to trust our kids and give them some freedom… BUT there is nothing wrong with telling them you will be checking on them to make sure they are making good choices… I am open to suggestions… we are living with that mistake and are trying to do better with our other three… navigating with an older child that has aspergers has been hard and we did the best we thought we could (we had 4 kids in 4 years, not our plan.. God’s)…

  11. Rule #4 – turn wifi off. Smart phones and pads are mini computers – transmit and receive radio frequencies. They act like mini cell phone towers, which we already know emit EMF/EMR, known to cause cancer. Please limit wifi use with youth – they absorb approx 60% more radiation than adults.

    • Thanks Susie!

    • You’re joking right? EMF/EMR are the same thing (electromagnetic frequencies/radiation) and they do not distinguish between a youth and an adult brain. Furthermore, the waves used for WiFi are radio waves. It is impossible for radio waves to cause cancer, and simply turning off the WiFi does not block all radio waves from entering your body. There are radio waves all around us all the time from cell and radio towers, neighbor WiFi, and space. If you are worried about your kiddo getting cancer, then there is a long list of carcinogens that people are exposed to every day that do far more harm than WiFi.

  12. I need to know how to stop children being on there iPads during class