Here are Some of the Major
Parenting Technology Talking Points:


Parental Controls – Why?

why parental controls

Often kids like things just the way they are and question why anything has to change. When parents begin instituting new rules and setting up parental controls, kids may get angry. A common question is: “Don’t you trust me?”

To ease the transition, we’ve found it helpful to share your reasons for initiating the change:

Share Your Reasons for Setting Limits

1. You trust your child (if true), but you don’t trust the content on the internet. It’s your job as the parent to create safe boundaries, and you think they’ll be glad you did. You want them to be able to explore their interests freely without stumbling upon inappropriate content that once seen can’t be unseen.

2. Technology companies have intentionally designed games, social media, and video platforms to be addictive, so they can make more money. They get paid by advertisers to keep users hooked, which is why it can be so hard to turn disconnect.

3. You want to minimize the conflict around screen time in your household

  • You value your relationship above anything else and find that the battles over screen time are taking too much of a toll
  • You’ll know you’ve struck a better balance when the level of conflict is occasional (once or twice a month) instead of daily or weekly

4. You want your child to value his or her free time

  • Free time doesn’t always have to equal screen time
  • You will support your child in developing their interests, hobbies, and friendships
  • Use our TimeWise Calculator as a jumping-off point–it can help your child to see how they’re spending their time

5. We don’t yet know the impact of screens on children’s brains–there’s just not enough data. What we do know is too much screen time:

  • Causes us to be sedentary–we don’t get enough movement or physical activity
  • Keeps us from getting outside and fresh air
  • Replaces time for reading and playing with other children
  • Exposes us to blue light which can be harmful to our eyes

6. You want your child to develop a balanced relationship with technology

  • Today, because there’s no shortage of good content, it can be hard to turn devices off. In our day, there were a limited number of channels and eventually, our options ran out
  • Time limits act as the off switch so your child knows when they’ve reached the limit

Easing into Life with Limits

When asked, some kids will actually suggest reasonable time limits–it can never hurt to try! Also, we’ve created Our Family Agreement to help parents set expectations and guidelines so that everyone has a shared understanding. It’s worth investing the time in having these conversations before you’re too far down the technology path, but it can still be a helpful tool if a reset is needed.

Implementing screen limits in the short term may be a bit rocky, but once kids get used to it, everyone is ultimately happier because there’s a less ongoing conflict. And letting the technology do the work for you is better than engaging in a physical tug-of-war over devices.  


Work is Not the Same as for Fun

always on device, screen, kids, parentsThis is one of our favorites to nip in the bud. It’s one thing if you’re scrolling Instagram all day, but in most cases, we parents are on devices because we’re doing real work. When our children challenge us on this, we readily respond that we need our devices to be more effective in our jobs. Whether we’re CEO of our own company or CEO of the family, we’re using our devices to prepare a presentation, schedule doctor appointments, or juggle after school logistics.

If there’s any time for ‘fun screen time’, it happens in the evenings once we’ve gotten our work done. And actually, nothing sounds more appealing than turning off the screens and hitting the great outdoors. 

A Child’s Job is to Be a Student and Play

Comparatively, a child’s current role in life is to be a student. This doesn’t require the use of a computer on a regular basis until high school. Soon enough, they’ll be tethered to screens, so enjoy the outdoors and free play while they can. And just like us, when they’ve met their basic responsibilities, then they may have some screen time.

But as they are yet still children, they are learning to self-regulate. It takes time and practice to voluntarily turn   technology off, especially when you’re about to break your video game record, or are really into that Netflix series. Having time to play with friends, explore the great outdoors, or figure out what to do when you’re bored are all important life skills and contribute to one’s overall health and well-being.

Strategies for the Day-to-Day

When you’re on your phone or computer and your child is clamoring for your attention, it can help to narrate. Subsequently, your child will understand what you’re doing and when you’ll be free to focus on them. And we’ve found this strategy surprisingly useful in minimizing the constant interruptions that dislodge your train of thought.

Of course, dedicated, device-free family time is very important. Occasionally, we find ourselves slipping up, and when we do, we make sure to offer a sincere apology. Hopefully, this acknowledgment indicates that we hold our relationship in high regard and that we still think the boundaries we’ve set are important.

Now that Parenting Technology is a part of our job description, these tools can help: Use Our Family Agreement family agreement, screen time, set expectations, device, timeto set expectations. Our TimeWise Calculator  time, wise, calculator, hour glass, always on device helps kids to visualize how they’re spending their day. It can also spark a discussion of what they’d like to do with their free time.


Aren’t I Entitled to Some Privacy?

monitor privacy

This is a difficult one to answer and is totally reflective of your parenting views and values. We think it all comes down to trust, and parents have an overabundance of reasons not to trust the internet.

Why Do You Have Monitor My Online Activity?

Unfortunately, inappropriate content pops up all over the internet in the least expected places. For example, even when an app is rated 4+, these types of ads are routinely shown to children. Numerous scandals involving the exploitation of children continue to surface on some of the most popular video sites such as TikTok and YouTube. And on social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat, it’s far too easy for strangers to make contact. Additionally, there’s the real concern over exposure to mature content, and it’s impossible to filter this out (Snapchat shows the same content to 13-year-olds and 25-year-olds). In short, as parents, we are looking out for our children’s best interest when no one else is. That alone is the reason enough for why we need to be monitoring. 

Kids Are Just Learning How to Communicate

A further consideration is that kids start communicating online when they’re still just learning to communicate. Their developing social skills inevitably need some fine-tuning. When parents are monitoring their children’s online activity regularly, they can seize the opportunity to continue ongoing conversations about what is, and is not, appropriate to share or say online.

Parents Play a Major Role

Under a parent’s watchful eye, kids know that they can talk to you and that you will help them to navigate tricky situations. As teens mature, the need to individuate emerges, and they will inevitably want more privacy. If parents are too intrusive, kids will find ways to circumvent the boundaries their parents set. Striking the right balance based on trust and good communication is key. Our Family Agreement can help to facilitate this.


To Track or Not to Track?

track kids

Tracking kid’s whereabouts is a totally new phenomenon. Some parents and teens may feel totally comfortable with technology-enhanced visibility into each other’s lives. Others may feel it’s a major invasion of privacy, if not a bit creepy. A question we often hear debated amongst Our Friends: “If you start tracking kids, when do you stop?”

We gave this some careful thought and here’s what we came up with:

Tracking Kids – The Reasons

These devices are expensive. When kids are young and learning to be responsible, being able to track down devices when they go missing is hugely helpful.

When kids enter their pre-teen years and are ready for more independence, we find it reassuring to know their whereabouts. This is the tradeoff for more freedom in an urban area. And sometimes, it’s convenient to see where your kids are and when they’ll be home, without having to bug them. 

When to Pull Back

When early teens become older teens, we’ll prepare to cut the cord. We will expect our kids to assume financial responsibility for replacing their devices if they’re lost. And, we will track their location, but will not actively monitor them unless they give us good reason. As parents who were once teens, we know how easy it is for highly-motivated teens to avert prying eyesOur efforts are better directed at open communication and building trust. Hopefully, this and a strong emotional bond can carry you through what can be challenging years.

Tracking – The Future

As tracking become more commonplace, we may find ourselves surprised that we ever thought it was a topic for debate. Even already, many millennials openly share their location with friends for safety reasons, and for aging parents, it’s increasingly popular.  While life-saving scenarios are edge cases, I’m sure this mother will be forever grateful that she could locate her daughter whose car overturned and got trapped in a ditch.  


Why are You Limiting the Number of Apps I Can Download?

If your child uses lots of apps, it can be a challenge to keep up with them. Time and again, we’ve been unpleasantly surprised, even when apps are rated 4+. There’s no assurance that advertising content will be age-appropriate, and so many of these apps are gamified. Children are often required to watch ads if they want to keep playing, or are entices to watch ads to earn extra points or special rewards.

We find this underlying manipulation deeply concerning. When downloading the free version of games from the App Store, parents need to be on the lookout. It’s always a good idea to spend a few minutes exploring the app and establishing content parameters for your child using Our Family Agreement can be helpful. Usually, the paid version is a safer bet.

*This is an example of an ad series that was shown on a free app called Draw It. We’ve unfortunately seen many similar examples.


Why Can’t I Use Devices in Restaurants or in the Car?

Generally, we think phones are best put away during mealtime, so we can give everyone our full attention. Sometimes when a question arises, googling can add to the conversation. We’ve established as a family rule that someone must get permission from your tablemates first before whipping out their phones.

  • When dinners get long for little ones in restaurants, we try to keep ours entertained by playing family games and encouraging them to come prepared with something to do. But during extended meals with good friends or family, we occasionally grant permission to look at photos or play games as long as whatever they’re doing is interactive.
  • In the car, we like to set the stage for conversation. Short car rides can be great family bonding moments–whether it’s music, or singing, or something about your child’s day. 
  • Phones and carpools can be tricky, especially when some kids have them out and some do not. We found that when kids get on their phones and start playing games or watching videos, they remove themselves from the mix. Best to let whoever is driving dictate the rules.
  • Long road trips are another matter entirely, although whoever’s riding in the passenger seat has to be available to entertain the driver!

“That’s Not Fair, You Can’t Take My Screen Time Away!” 

It’s never any fun. Taking screen time away is like taking candy from a baby, and you know the tantrum is eminent. However, for younger kids, we categorically support putting devices away. Time and again, we’re surprised when we hear any other viewpoint. Yes, of course, you want your child to learn to self- regulate, but this is a learned skill that’s many years in the making.

You’re in Charge

You’re the parent. You know what’s good for your child, and whether your current screen time system or lack thereof, is working in your household. If there’s more than an acceptable level of conflict, it’s time for a reset, even if that means a break for an extended period of time. We think it’s helpful when kids know that technology has limits and that parents are in charge.

Forging a New Screen Time Path

Many of us have experienced the downside of how children behave when they’ve spent too much time on screens. While the tantrums are exhausting, once the emotions have leveled, it’s an opportunity to discuss why you felt the need to put the devices away:

1.  There’s too much conflict in the house over screen time

2. Your child is always begging for more time and not respecting the limits you’ve set

3.  Screen time is interfering with developing other interests

4.  Screen time is taking time away from activities that are beneficial to our health– e.g. reading, getting outdoors, exercise

5.  You’re concerned how hard it is for your child to turn devices off and many of the features found on screens are designed to be addictive*

Our Family Agreement can help to set the expectations and clear boundaries will help to reduce the level of  conflict over screens in your family. Establishing parameters around screen time is important too. For example, is screen time earned? Is it meted out as a reward? Or, is it based on meeting certain expectations?

Older Kids and Devices

Once kids rely on their devices to communicate with friends, its more complicated. Shutting off teens who rely on their friends for social support would likely only motivate them to find alternatives. Burner phones are routinely traded out of lockers, and there’s no way to prevent a teen from activating a phone plan.

We’ve heard from Our Friends that grounding kids from social media when warranted, is effective. Apple’s Screen Time can help you to set up these limits– for more information, see our Screen Time Setup Guide or text us!

Be an Active Digital Parent from the Beginning

We think it’s so important to take an active digital parenting role early on. Talking with kids about their technology use while they’re still young gives you years to influence their habits and open their eyes to potential concerns. We think of  ‘Parenting Technology’ like a firehose where we grant privileges one twist at a time.

*If you have significant concerns, best to reach out to a licensed professional for further support.


“Why Can’t I Have More Screen Time?”

more screen time, break

Screen Time Isn’t Bad or Good:
Kids can come up with so many good reasons for wanting to be on devices beyond the entertainment factor — they’re watching how-to videos or socializing with friends. But sometimes we feel they’ve already spent enough time on devices, and we just want them to take a break.

It’s About Striking the Right Balance and Taking a Break

This is one of the harder aspects of ‘Parenting Technology’. Using a drawing app to cool design, making a TikTok video with friends, or watching skateboarding tricks on YouTube, for example, can all be valid reasons. But most of us don’t want our kids to be screen-dependent. Rather, we want them to look up, play with their friends (in-person), get some fresh air, and exercise. In today’s world, screen can be so intertwined with constructive play and exploration; tight- rope walking the online/offline balance is tricky.

Strategies and Tools to Help Your Kids See the Bigger Picture

1. Have this conversation — Too much time on screens:

  • Causes us to be sedentary which means we’re not getting enough movement or physical activity
  • Keeps us from getting outside and fresh air
  • Replaces time for reading and playing with other children
  • Exposes us to blue light which is harmful to our eyes

On balance, too much screen time interferes with many of the most important factors in maintaining health and well-being.

2. Use Our Timewise Calcuator. It can:

  • Help kids (and parents) to get a better sense of how they’re spending their time
  • Spark discussion around what your child wants to do with their free time

3. Use Apple’s Screen Time feature. One of the main benefits is that you can give your child more flexibility to follow their curiosity and pursue their interests. Time limits:

  • Can be set for specific apps or different groupings (e.g. entertainment, education, creativity)
  • Teach your child that technology has an off switch
  • Can help to make sure screen use isn’t interfering with sleep

To get screen time working the way you want, use our Screen Time Setup Tool (coming soon) or contact iConcierge Services.

4. Help your child to create good alternatives:

  • Encourage your children’s interests and hobbies by asking what would she/he like to do more of?
  • Who would she/he like to have a playdate with  (help your child to plan ahead and practice initiating making plans)
  • Have your child make an “I’m Bored” list
    • Brainstorm 10- 20 things she could do around the house the next time she’s bored
    • Keep a copy on your phone for easy access, or print a list
    • Use this list of 100+ offline activities to generate ideas

Soon, taking a break won’t feel a difficult!

See also Our Best Practices for Managing Screen Time


Online Chats – Can Any Good Come Out of Them?

online chat, any goodOnline chats can definitely feel scary from a parent’s perspective and cause parents a lot of concern. While the child online predator statistics are fairly low, many parents don’t want to take the risk. Sometimes it’s hard to know which games and apps have this functionality before giving the green light

Here’s what we did when we discovered our 10-year-old was playing a virtuality reality game (rated 4+) with online chats:

1. We asked her why she was online chatting. Her response: she was asking for advice as to how to play the games and was helping answer others’ question. Hearing this helped us to better understand the appeal.

2. We asked her to give a tour, so we could see how the online chatting function worked. As she had attested, the online chatting filters did an effective job of blocking players from sharing personal information. it also successfully filtered out inappropriate words.

3. We asked her opinion on a comment we thought crossed the line into the snarky territory. We reinforced the importance of being kind.

4. We then shared our concern that creepy grown -ups(predators) can pretend to be kids. When she said “That never happens!” I quickly produced this example below from a parenting froup on Facebook.

online chats, child predators, risk, concern, actions to take, danger5. I told her that I was appreciative that we could have such an open conversation. 

Next Steps – Setting Expectations for Online Chats

I used Our Family Agreement to set expectations and minimize the downside risk. We would allow her to continue playing the game, but she must limit her chatting to asking questions and helping others. She is not allowed to friend anyone–friends are people whom you know in-person, and we expect her to share anything that makes her feel uncomfortable, so we can talk it through. She knows we will be using Circle to set time limits and that I will periodically review the chat history.

Hearing her perspective did broaden my view on online chatting. I can see how it has the potential to build collaboration and social skills, but I will still want to keep a close eye!

To see more ‘Parenting Technology’ Talking points, click here.


Why are you in my business when it comes to social media?

Monitoring Kids on Social Media – It’s Now a Parent’s Job :
Whether we like it or not, monitoring kids on social media is now part of our job description. While there are positives to social media — it can increase connection when used moderately — there are many downside risks. When kids are still learning how to interact online, a parent’s coaching and support greatly helps in navigating these digital exchanges.

The challenge for parents is that there’s no easy way to monitor social media activity. If your child is inclined toward surreptitious behavior, you can’t block them from setting up fake accounts or creating new profiles. And sometimes, the desire is more nuanced. It’s less about parents’ prying eyes and more about wanting to share with a more intimate group of friends.

How to Monitor Kid’s Social Media Activity

The below represents feedback from Our Friends. However, please consider these a range of potential options for monitoring social media activity, rather than outright recommendations. Some may not resonate with your parenting style or values.

1.  Set time limits for specific social media apps

  • Maximize the benefits of social connection; limit use to approximately 30 minutes on each platform (up to 2 platforms)
  • Increase the likelihood that your child will text using Messages
    • Time for direct messaging and disappearing messages will be limited

2.  Friend/ Follow your child and set notifications so you can readily see new posts

3. Spot-check your child’s phone to keep an eye out for:

  • Multiple profiles
  • Direct message history

4.  Link their account to yours for easier spot checking.

5.  Subscribe to a social media monitoring service such as Bark

  • Parents are only notified if there are issues of major concern
    • Kids feel they get some semblance of privacy
    • Parents only see the activity in question, not all messaging history.
  • It’s effective for Apple messages, email, and Google apps (bullying is now routinely happening on school- endorsed Google Docs)
  • It cannot monitor direct messaging on Instagram and Snapchat

6. Friend/Follow your kid’s friends and be stealth about it

Encourage Social Media Alternatives

Monitoring kids on social media is one of our big Parenting Technology responsibilities. Subsequently, it’s now a job, and one that we have to take seriously. By bringing the above strategies to light, we aim to ease the burden, but there’s no substitute for active parenting.

One way to re-direct kids is by offering alternatives to social media. Parents can encourage their child to make social plans and support the effort by suggesting activities, offering rides, and supplying the funds. This will facilitate the effort while reinforcing that socializing in-person is more gratifying.

Next Steps

Our  Social Media Roadmap social media, monitor, kids, teens, roadmap, job can help you get up-to-speed on all the major issues. To see what parents need to know about the social media platforms and how to make them safer for kids, explore Our Guides. jobAnd if you haven’t already, use Our Family Agreement Family agreement, social media, jobset expectations.

For more Q&A, click here.

©2023 Heard It From A Friend

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