Setting Boundaries on Technology and Screen Time (Free Technology Contract)


“Get off the iPod! Stop playing video games. Turn off the TV! No, you can’t have a smartphone yet! Do you think we’re made of money? And what do you need a phone for anyway—you’re not even in high school yet!”

Sound familiar?

I should put these words to music, because they are a constant refrain in our house with our ten-year-old son. He wants everything now—without even knowing quite why he even wants it.

“Who would you call on your cell phone if you had one?”

“Lots of kids have them,” he says. “You’re mean!”

(*Note: After ten years, I have learned to say, “Yup, I’m the meanest mom in the world,” and shrug and walk away instead of feeling hurt. I finally caught on that I must be doing something right!)

Related: Want to set limits around technology and screen time? Free downloadable Tech Contract for parents!

But like it or not, we are raising a tech-loving kid — and I know he’s not alone because all my friends report the same electronic tug-of-war going on at their houses. Screens are everywhere, and while they make life easier in some ways, they also pose new problems—especially for parents trying to raise kids who aren’t zombie-fied or exposed to too much, too soon.

Let’s face it, the screens in our lives provide too much passive entertainment and take away from your child’s time playing outside or using his or her imagination to invent a new game because “We’re bored!” Add to that the plethora of violent video games, movies and TV shows, and the fact that many experts are saying that there isn’t enough face-to-face contact for kids today—and a worrisome lost opportunity to develop empathy because of it.

I’ll admit it, sometimes it seems almost impossible to place limits around screens in our house, because, like whack-a-mole, if we take away one screen, our son can always run to the next one immediately. So what’s a parent to do?

One idea is to use “screen time” as a consequence or reward, like Megan Devine advises in her recent popular EP article. Another idea is to actually have your child sign a “Tech Contract” that spells out exactly what, how long and when he or she is allowed to use electronics each day (or week). This Tech Contract was created by our parent coaching team.

(I’m printing this contract out and going over it with my family tonight. Care to join me?)

Let us know how the Tech Contract worked for your family. Did it help you to define some boundaries around electronics? How do you set screen time limits in your house?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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