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Managing Technology Distractions on School Nights

Cell phones, Facebook, I-Touch, Xbox + students + parents… can they peacefully co-exist and survive the school year? How do we best teach our kids to manage technology distractions on school nights? Hmmm.

Did you ever stop to think that because we are addressing this very question we are making history? This is a new problem that gets more complex with every new release of cell phones, gaming systems, etc.  How to address this issue has not yet been solved. I know this because I have googled many phrases in attempt to come up with a plan for my family:

Technology limits on school nights
Technology limits + kids + homework
Guidelines for cell phone use + study skills + teens

What did I find online? Not a lot. I learned that too much Facebook affects academic performance. Now there’s a surprise. Also learned that t(w)eens will text all night  if you let them keep their phone in their room. Shocking. What I didn’t seem to find is how to help our kids manage all these distractions. So, my husband and I  did what any good parents would do: We talked to other parents and compared notes on kids, homework and technology rules. Next, we developed a list of guidelines for technology on school nights that we felt fit our situation and kids.  

Thought I would share our guidelines here in hopes that other parents will jump into the conversation.  

School Night Technology Rules

After School/Before Homework Technology

  • Can check Facebook 15 min max  & be on computer for homework related stuff only
  • i-Touch for checking Facebook - 15 minutes

During Homework

  • I-Touch - Music Only   -   if used for surfing the net, or Facebook, I-Touches will be downstairs
  • Cell phones- in kitchen (our kids do homework at desks in their bedrooms)
  • Can check cell phones on homework breaks
  • Note: our computer is in our family room.

After Homework Approved Activities

  • Chores get done first
  • Outside activities
  • TV
  • Read 
  • Hobbies (xbox is not a hobby)
  • Friends
  • No i-Touch games or internet-  Music only
  • No XBox
  • Can talk to friends via Skype  

Night Time/In Bed

  • Cell phones downstairs
  • I-Touch for music only- No internet or games


  • Homework needs to start no later than 3pm 
  • No XBOX after 3

You may be wondering why we felt the need to write up such specific rules for our family.  I will tell you that typically my husband and I fall into the authoritative parent style category. As for our kids, they are good kids; they have lots of interests, make great choices with friends, they get good grades, and are kind and respectful. For these reasons, last year we went the route of "discussing" guidelines and hoping that our kids would learn to self-manage. Simply put, this approach didn’t work.

So fast forward to the family meeting where we told our kids about the "new plan." Well, you can imagine that this went over like a lead balloon.  As anticipated, we had a very heated and healthy exchange with our kids. Their reaction: these rules are way too extreme. 

So, here’s the gist of what we told our kids... when they were little it was our job to keep them safe. Now that they are older we want to empower them to make good choices but  this technology thing is just too darn alluring. Stay in touch with your friends 24-7? That’s a t(w)een’s dream. Science tells us that t(w)eens brains are not wired to multi-task nor can they be expected be a steel trap of self-discipline. They are not unmotivated or bad kids – it’s just unfair to think that they could have their cell phone and Facebook accessible  during homework and not be tempted to check it … a lot. (Yes, we have cell phone texting records to prove this theory ;  ) Our goal is to have balanced kids, that do well in school and pursue hobbies and friendships that don’t always involve technology. Hopefully by taking this approach, our kids will arrive at the spring of senior year with lots of options for colleges and have no regrets (because they didn’t apply themselves).  Once we explained our thoughts, they actually came around. Yes, they are still speaking to us. I may even go so far as to say that I think they are relieved to have some limits set. I'll have to get back to you on that one. 

So now it’s your turn. How do you manage technology distractions on school nights in your house? What has worked and not worked? Would you add or subtract anything to our list?




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#3 Brooke 2011-08-25 13:34
Good for you! We know way too many kids (as young as 9) who have no self-mastery as regards these tools, and their parents have essentially given up. Then I get them in some instructional setting and their attention spans and social skills are non-existant.

Here, we have no game systems, (not even handheld) and the only computer with internet access is in my room. Iphones are named, not assigned, until the child has enough money from babysitting to pay for the service. They don't HAVE to pay for the service, but that's the threshold. Until then they they have the use of 'The Blue phone' or 'hogwarts' when necessary.

Ipods, touches, etc. are kept in public space. All cell phones, and other portables, are charged in the kitchen. And we have no TV. =8-0 We watch DVD's as a family, in the evening.

This probably sounds really Amish to some people. My kids, however, are so BUSY that it really doesn't come up much. And some of them naturally need more support than others. However, they know they're in huge demand, in work environments, babysitting, and as 'playdates' because they have such good people skills and can make collaborative & imaginative games with any group, as well as getting work done, so the facebooking, etc. can commence. :-)
#2 Stephanie 2010-10-13 01:40
I think failure of some students should also be incorporated with the gadget, technologies or let us just say all the luxurious that they have. Like for example the cell phone which they use even inside the classroom. Instead of going to the library or reading lessons they are playing computer games etc. I know these technologies are result of development but we have to admit it is affect students in their education. There are benefits of course we cannot deny that but in general… what do you think?
#1 Ben 2010-09-11 04:22
Love the list. It lays out a great framework and clearly sets expectations. I'd like to offer a couple of tips on enforcement. You said that the computer was in the living room - good. The holes I saw in the plan was the temptation to use mobile devices (for evil :-) ) when they're with t(w)eens. First, the iPod Touches: to keep kids from the temptation of using the web or facebook during homework time, most routers these days allow blocking of certain devices/sites during certain blocks of time. It would be helpful to schedule these blackout times right on the router to prevent kids from even trying. Ifor more info go to https://reviews.cnet.com/routers/?filter=500563_5056033_)
Second, the phones. If you've got a kid-friendly phone service (like Kajeet), you can set a schedule where you block texting and calling during the specified homework times. You can even set multiple schedules so the overnight hours are blocked. Of course 911 and calling home will always work. Kajeet is great for this, although not tremendously well known. (to find out more, you can check out www.safephones4kids.com )

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

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