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March 12, 2012


John Heffernan

To me, in the example given, the parent jumped to conclusions. The technology could have been used as a venue for the 2 boys to do something together, create a project, make a movie, play a video together that requires communication and teamwork.

John Heffernan

My Top 10 Tips on Setting Technology Limits

One of the best things you can do is to ensure the technology is being used for educating and creating, not just consumption.

Many parents are unsure of how and when to set limits on technology use for their children (and themselves). I believe this is something we all need to think about, adults as well as kids. Setting technology limits is a personal decision based on the values that you have, so there is not one policy that will fit every family. As a parent and educator who encourages students to use technology in a positive and creative way, but is also aware of some of the downsides to certain types of technology use, I have compiled the following guidelines. With technology more and more ubiquitous in our lives, it’s a good time to think through this issue for our children and ourselves:

RATINGS — Use the ratings provided on video games, TV shows, and movies. It may seem obvious but many don’t check them. They are a good place to start to see what is appropriate and what isn’t. Also, they can save a lot of arguing. You can deflect to the rating when arguments start. Before I did realized this myself, I told my son basically that we could watch/play just about everything when he got to third grade… so I will be in for a problem in third grade. You can check for movie ratings at FilmRatings.com. Ratings for TV shows should appear on your cable or satellite guide and games have rating on the boxes or you can check them online too.
PREVIEWING — Try to preview games, shows, and movies if you can. Online reviews can also be helpful. Common Sense Media has in-depth reviews with rating categories specific to families.
CONTROLS — Look into parent controls and monitoring software. Imagine my surprise when I heard the “f word” coming out of our iPad! My 5 year old had learned to preview songs on his own. Luckily, he did not realize what he was hearing but I quickly found the parental controls setting and turned it on. Google Search also has a safe search setting. None of these are perfect but they are a big help. We teach kids at the Williamsburg Schools what do you if they do come across something inappropriate, which is move away from that screen and notify staff so it can be either filtered or reported as inappropriate… because they will run into inappropriate material. But take advantage of the controls and monitoring tools that are available. Apple product built-in controls can be found in settings under Parent Controls. Here’s a link to a review of control tools for PCs on www.pcmag.com.
LOCATION — Limiting the location of your media devices is much harder now with tablets, laptops and smartphones, but try to keep devices in public places in your house and out of bedrooms.
CREATE & EDUCATE — One of the best things you can do is to ensure the technology is being used for creation and not just consumption. Suggest ways for kids to be creative. For instance, don’t just read comic books on the media device, create them, create art, and create video games. Related to this is making a distinction between “just for fun” and educational technology. We set that strict limit at school, but at home we strive for a balance of educational and “just for fun” technology use. The web site iear.org is a good review site and source for finding good educational apps for the tablets and smart phones.
SELF-REGULATION — After a certain age, we have to trust that we have done our jobs and that our kids will self-regulate. I believe this to be true if we have provided a balance of activities for our kids and taught them constructive and creative uses of technology (as well as the “just for fun” stuff).
FLEXIBILITY — Some parents try to have consistent daily limits on screen time, which can work for some families. But we try to look at the whole day and provide a balance of activities and not have strict daily limits. Things can relax if folks are sick, tired, or in bad weather… at least for us. The opposite is also true for us when we have lots of energy and have good weather.
BALANCE — A balanced life is the best. So we look to see on a daily or weekly basis if we have provided a balance of activities: music, art, reading books, technology, outdoors, spiritual, exercise/sports, creative play, and social activities.
TALK — We have found it important and rewarding to do technology with our son. When my son reached 4, I realized that the time had come to stop trying to prohibit certain things and to simply state how I felt about things and make a choice for myself whether I wanted to play that game with him. For us, that centers around fighting games and content. This is how kids learn values from their parents.
MODEL — The best way to ensure a healthy use of technology for kids is to be a good role model ourselves.


I love this blog! I see this so much with young kids. We have zero computer time at home, we have zero Smartphone usage at home and in order to entertain our daughter, we simply play with her. Dance to music, play outside, read a book, or let her use her imagination to create things. Yes, we have TV which she watches PBS Spout in moderation, but is by no means a babysitter. She is in preschool and that is the only babysitter she has besides mom, dad, & grandma. More parents need to become social with their kids or they are creating a recipe for disaster. I see SO many toddler aged children playing with iPad, laptop, phone etc; it makes me wonder how much regression is going on in the child’s mental? No judging, just saying!


OMG, I was just having this conversation with my husband! It's confirmation that the media has gotten out of hand! I'm so afraid of the long-term repercussions this will have on society. We are creating a generation of children that will not know how to communicate with others. They get locked up into their fantasy world where everything goes their way! I can only imagine what this constant stream of media is doing to their brains! I imagine that there are parts of their brains that are extremely over stimulated and parts that are empty and weak from lack of human contact and conversation. It weakens their ability to think critically and analytically. I am public health nurse and in my training and my gut...I know that the constant media stream will have a negative effect on our children.


I think just like anything else, everything in moderation is key. I see nothing wrong with letting my daughter use the ipad every now and then at a restaurant when I know that my 25 mins of sitting nicely with the family is up. I download a lot of education apps, which some may argue are not really so. But I've seen with my own eyes how she's able to visualize how a triangle may fit into a space in real life. I've seen how some apps have helped her learn the sound of alphabets and while some will argue, she's just memorizing. Tell me, isn't that how you learned your alphabets yourself? So not all's bad, so long as it's in moderation. This debate has the stirrings of the same polarizing argument as the stay at home mom vs work out of home mom debate. Just think, when we were growing up, many of us used to watch TV after school and many of us turned out to be successful professionals and well adjusted adults in happy marriages with strong friendships.


... and there was our time... we could not live without classmates... if we missed schools we missed our classmates... only to call back after school hours to check with them. :)

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