Worried about your child on social media? 15 potential 'house rules' your family can try.

Many parents worry about “screen time”. Health risks, developmental impact, and privacy/safety concerns all loom large over the negotiations between parents and kids about media use.


Last spring, More Than Sex-Ed presented a workshop on internet and social media use for parents at an LA area charter school, and attendees brainstormed possible “household rules” for computer, phone, and tablet use.  Below are their suggestions, but only you can assess what will work for your family.  Here are some factors to consider in setting family agreements:

  • Children will not learn about online safety unless they hear about it from their parents.  Explain your concerns and why you feel it’s necessary to set these boundaries.
  • Similarly, only you can talk to your child about socially appropriate technology use!  Discuss why it might be rude to be on your phone in certain situations.

  • The rules have to apply to you, too: role-model putting the phone down and being fully present to your family.

  • Remember that many adolescents are in the crucial developmental stage of learning how to create a support network beyond their family, and their phone or computer may be a literal lifeline.  Consider the importance of these emotional resources before taking a device away as punishment.

Suggested House Rules:

Many thanks to the collective wisdom of the auditorium full of elementary and middle-schooler parents and caregivers who came up with this list!

  1. Set a cutoff time: i.e., no electronics after 8:30pm.

  2. Separate rules for “viewing” screens vs. “interactive” screens: i.e., 30-minute max per day for interactive media (computer or video games), 1 hour max for TV or film.

  3. Have one location in the house where all devices are plugged in and kept, instead of being carried around the house (and taken to bed).

  4. Time spent in real life activities balances screen time: one hour of active play, outside time, or housework = one hour of screen time.

  5. Computer is used only in open/shared family space, with screen visible.

  6. Child must ask for permission to use computer.

  7. Screen time happens with parents; surf the web or play a game together.

  8. Parents remain an expert in the home (your child is not allowed to become more familiar with a platform or program than you are).  This requires the commitment to research any new technology your child wants to use first!

  9. For any new interactive game or app a child wants to use, they have to teach their parent how it works.

  10. Child may only “friend” people they know in real life; parent reserves the right to review list of friends or followers.

  11. Parents model not being on their phone during family time—rules regarding when phones get put away apply to you, too.

  12. No phones or tablets in the car (this invites an opportunity for no-eye-contact conversation about difficult topics).

  13. Child needs parental permission to take/post pictures.

  14. All tablets and phones docked from 3:00 pm—7:30 pm, to encourage active play after school.

  15. Child does not have personal email; must use parent’s email account to create profiles on social media platforms.

What’s worked well for your family?  Let us know and we’ll share your great idea with other parents!