Managing technology with teenagers

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This post is really looking at how we manage technology with our 15 year old. I have learnt that managing technology with teenagers is so much harder than younger kids for two key reasons:

  • Our teenagers have an iPad for school and need the iPad and other technology for their homework
  • Social media networks are the key communication tool for teenagers

This means applying the same rules for the teenagers as the younger kids doesn’t really work. In our home we group activities like TV watching, Wii games, online time, iPod time etc all under the banner of technology time. You can find my earlier posts on technology / TV time here:

I want to state that I think technology can be great for kids. I spend lots of time online myself and while I am aware of the negative issues that can arise from social media networks (bullying, comparisonitis, porn, etc), I think it can also be a fantastic way for teenagers to connect and communicate with friends.

The issue I have is with too much technology is that it is too much of a sedentary activity. Time spent in front of a screen means less time spend doing other activities, in particular physical activities and interacting face to face.

The propensity of kids/teenagers to stay in front of a screen from my experience seems to be very personality driven. Two of the five kids in our family, really struggle to self regulate. The other three naturally tire of screen time and seem to self regulate much better.

How much time do kids spend on technology?

According to the Raising Children Network:

The average young person consumes 4 hours and 49 minutes of media in a typical day.

About a third (33%) of young Australians aged 12-14 years spend more than 10 hours on the internet each week.

On average, young Australians spend 2 hours and 26 minutes watching television, DVDs and downloaded television content in one day.

More than one in five parents (22%) would like their child to be less involved with electronic media and communications activities.


 Managing technology with teenagers – what we do

Mid last year we changed the way we managed technology with our eldest child. I was quite happy with the status quo, but he was not. You can read the previous set up here.

We moved to a more open style of access:

  • No technology before 10am or after 10pm
  • No technology to be used in the bedroom
  • Take regular breaks (no more than 1 hour stretches of time) from the screens
  • Homework is take priority over technology

Somedays the teenager regulates himself better than others. Somedays it seems as if he is stuck permanently to the screen. On those days when he is not self regulating, I will enforce a break.

Many nights at 10pm I will change the wifi password to prevent the temptation for him jumping online before school in the morning. I will also wait to give him his password sometimes until he has spent enough time off line or has completed outstanding tasks. This isn’t an ideal set up, the teenager detests it and I don’t love withdrawing privileges, but I had been struggling with the level of time he was spending online. [Edit Jan 2016 – I am no longer changing the WiFi password as I found it was just a short term fix and wasn’t helping the teenagers learn to manage their online time.]

I don’t claim for this to be the perfect arrangement for technology. I personally feel that the 15 year old teenager spends too much time on technology. If you ask him however he would most likely tell you I am a control freak with technology and that he has so much less than everyone else. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between!

Managing technology with teenagers – what do you do?

I would love to hear how you manage technology with teenagers in your home. How much time would your teenagers spend online? Do you regulate it?

If you are happy to share in the comments below and I receive enough responses, I will write a follow up post, sharing what other families do. If you have a blog and have written on this topic, please leave a link so I can check it out. Thanks!

Update – what other families do

I have collated responses received into this post – Managing technology with teenagers – what other families do. Thanks so much to all those who shared!


  1. says

    Hi Nicole
    It’s like you have read my inner thoughts this morning. I really needed to read this post as this is a HUGE problem in our house. All our fighting, disagreeing and anger is because of the computer, internet, IPAD etc.
    I have 3 kids 5, 12 and 14. All of them own an IPAD. Master 14 is the worst culprit and just this morning I made a family announcement that no IPAD shall be watched whilst eating! Nor shall a person walk around the house with an IPAD in one hand and earphones on.
    I am so sick of it, but agree with all your points. When we are really angry we resort to switching off the WIFI ( if only my laptop had 4G!)
    Thanks Nicole.
    Have a great day

  2. says

    Yeah, I don’t know if you can have an ‘ideal’ setup when teenagers wanting to assert their independence are involved. Especially the eldest/trailblazer! I’m thinking that although I sometimes find it hard with five kids under 11, parenting teenagers sounds like a whole new world of mental exhaustion!

  3. Emma D says

    My eldest started high school this yr, & I’m the ‘mean mum’ who restricts screen, but they usually have more than the 2hrs I advocate . We have a screen free day too (except eldest for homework). On weekends & hols they are allowed until 10am, then not til 5 (dinner prep). I say the same – 1hr then a break. And they need to have a balanced ratio of play : paper : practice : pod eg tramp/Lego/toys, drawing/reading, music/skills, screens.

  4. Michelle says

    A very timely post Nicole! This isn’t really an issue for our little one as yet as he is under 2, but over the past week I found myself getting frustrated with my husband because he had his head buried in an iPad or tv show and not fully engaged with our little one. We have always had the no technology at the dinner table rule and that still applies and works well. I’ve had to be conscious of my tv and iPad habits myself as I have always liked background noise, but now I like to fully engage when playing with our little one. I think it’s time we introduce some boundaries for ourselves, to lead by example.

  5. says

    I’m a few days in to the world of being a parent of a teen and with his birthday money wants to buy a tablet. I’ll probably also be getting him a phone for high school next year and I’ve indicated to him that there will be rules around it. I’ve seen somewhere about having a contract (here’s one I think I’ll fine tune it with my son’s input and implement it. My ex’s son would have his iphone in his room and be up really late doing whatever with it and I don’t want my son doing that. He needs his sleep!

  6. Karen says

    You might find this post interesting?

    The scenario described there is similar to how we approach technology in our home, although my eldest is only 12 so some of it is only theoretical so far! I don’t agree with everything in the post, but it certainly has some very wise tips for those starting to think about how they want to navigate the waters :)

  7. says

    It’s quite a struggle, isn’t it? I wrote up a guide on how we keep our internet access safe for our 4 boys (click through to my blog to get a copy). Beyond these measures, we are currently allowing .5 hours of screen time (iPod or computer) on weekdays and 1-2 hours on weekends. We have had to keep the iPods in a drawer in the kitchen because my kids were clearly unable to self-regulate. My oldest (14) does get an extra hour of computer time since he is working through an animation tutorial.

    My kids are definitely happier when they have very little screen time, but unfortunately they aren’t making the connection themselves. We have also had to ban Minecraft playing for now since it produces some very intense emotions in my 7 and 10 year olds.