Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

Setting Boundaries For Kids And Their Digital Devices

July 21, 2022

When my kids were small, I always had to be careful about the words I used in front of them because they often repeated everything they heard.  If I wanted them to use kind words, I had to model using kind words in front of them.  If I wanted them to learn to treat others with kindness and respect, I needed to model that in front of them as well.  Children pick up on everything they see and hear their parents or caregivers say and do, and those actions often go with them into adulthood.  So it’s no surprise that the same theory holds true for how we use and how much time we spend using digital technology.  A recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that screen time isn’t the only factor in determining whether a person has a healthy relationship with technology or not.  But in actuality, family engagement plays an even greater role. While modeling is important, having consistent rules in the household concerning what content can be accessed is equally as important.  The study found that in households with “family-owned” devices and with parents who modeled how to limit their own social media use, teens were  more likely to report having better overall health outcomes as well as healthy self-images. Teens who live in households with parents who do not monitor the digital content their teens access and use social media more often than the “engaged” group of parents, are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and poor self-body image.  Surprisingly, it seems that  parents who are more concerned with “content” rather than “screen time” have happier and healthier children.   As I read through this article, I kept coming back to one thought: It always goes back to the relationship and doing things together…as a family.   Parents need to cultivate a relationship with their children where they set boundaries.  Not out of anger or malice.  But out of love and guidance.  By explaining the boundaries and modeling a healthy way to live within them, parents are teaching their children how to navigate wisely in this crazy digital world.  I know that I didn’t always model well  for my children. (Just ask them, they will happily admit it.)  But I did try my best to create an open and honest relationship with them so that the boundaries we set for them made sense and kept them safe.   And in the end, isn’t that all we can really do?  Just do our best.