Last Updated on March 11, 2024

The other day my middle son asked if I would sit down and play the piano with him. I was busy writing something on my laptop and simultaneously waiting for a text and said, without looking up, “Sure, son, just give me a second.”

When I got up I said, “You know sometimes I just wanna throw my arms up and sing, ‘Jesus take the wheel.’” He laughed and said maybe I should say, “Jesus take the laptop…” I chuckled. And then I thought about it … he was right. Lately, it feels like I’ve been attached to a computer or phone constantly.

And even though I’m careful to keep it to a minimum around my children, I’m afraid it sneaks in at times. Usually at inopportune times … like bedtime, homework time or dinnertime.

I have teenagers, so our family’s cyber/social footprint is quite large and Wi-Fi gets a good workout at our house. Honestly, I hate seeing their faces buried in little screens all the time. There’ve been nights when my two oldest have been on their IPods, texting on their phones, and watching the family movie all at the same time. It would be impressive if it weren’t so sad.

I want us to unplug. I want to give my children the freedom to NOT be in constant contact with people. It’s exhausting even if they don’t realize it. And I’m exhausted by it.

I can’t even begin to keep up with monitoring it. I’m trying, but it’s kicking my fanny. And I worry… I know I’m not supposed to worry, but I feel like I need to be on top of this electronic mess better. And honestly, my own in-front-of-the-screen time is a bit too much as well.

Recently I had to take away one of my children’s phone and IPod. While I was trying to figure out how to do it without too much drama, I had an epiphany: I decided to speak positively. I said, “Honey, you made some bad decisions but you will get your phone back when these things happen …” Rather than, “You are losing your phone. It’s gone. You totally abused the privilege!” Blessedly, the positive approach worked pretty well!

I’ve been thinking through some things and coming up with some ideas. I’m not sure which ones I’ll implement … maybe all of them!

  • Everyone must acknowledge that every electronic is really Mom’s and she’s graciously sharing it with them.
  • During dinner and family times we get to enjoy each other without electronic distractions.
  • Homework/chore completion will be rewarded with electronic time.
  • Sweet sleep is encouraged by giving all electronics to Mom to keep until morning or afterschool.
  • Our second floor is an electronics-free zone.

I think it’ll be great to set some boundaries. I’ve come to understand that boundaries are beautiful! And my children will be safer and more secure because of them. I’m gonna unplug and enjoy my children … this is a great opportunity to model how to do this cyber thing better.

I’m belting out a few bars of “Jesus take my phone…take it from my hand!” Can you hear me?

What electronic boundaries does your family have in place?

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  1. While our five were growing up it was pretty much just TV and CDs that electronically invaded home space. Sadly, the behavior described in Sue’s piece is all too common in today’s culture including parents! So, here’s one simple suggestion: set times when the digital doors close. We “unplugged” for years when we disconnected the cable TV service and after several days of kids staring at the carpet wondering “what now?,” they began to do two things. Read. Talk with each other. Pretty crazy that those two acts common for many centuries would be considered now “out of the ordinary.” Granted, this may be extreme action for many so my “simple” first step would be to set reasonable boundaries for shutting down the electronics to open the window for good old fashioned family communication. Perhaps 8pm might be “reasonable” for some since that should leave an hour or more even for the young ones to be part of “family time.” Since the adults get to set the time perhaps let the kids choose the family event to fill the hour or two when all cell phones and computers are “asleep.” Board games, coloring, stories (including making them up!) can help fill the home with the conversations and laughter missing in action when all are connecting with the world while being disconnected from each other.

  2. Sue, I like your ideas! A friend of mine has a rule at her house: electronics do not go to bed with anyone, cell phones and other devices have a designated spot on the counter and are to be placed there at the end of the day. Recently, her oldest graduated highschool and joined the armed forces, the oldest called home and said “I cannot take the constant communication. I try to sleep and someone is texting me!” She had to remind her oldest about the rule they had at home.
    It is so hard to draw boundaries in this area!

  3. What a great reminder! I am guilty of being on my phone or tablet more than I should around my little ones. I don’t want to look back and realize I had missed so much. Thanks for sharing!