How to Win at Regulating

How to Win at Regulating

It is likely that your teenager will get a new tech device this Christmas. That is, if they don’t already have one. I wrote about this in a previous post and talked about the ways you, as a parent, can monitor and regulate your teenagers use of devices.

Here, I am more interested in how adults in teenagers’ lives can empower teens to regulate themselves. You see, if we aren’t teaching our kids how to set up boundaries from an early age, all they will learn is to follow what someone else tells them to do. Or worse, they will learn to resist and rebel against what they are told to do. Our job needs to be that we help our kids understand the value in setting healthy boundaries and the benefit they will get from doing that on their own. The way I say it to my kids is, “I want you to make choices that allow you to have the freedom to choose to do whatever you want. That includes doing things that are wrong but knowing that when you choose those things, you begin to lose your freedom. So you make the right choices and maintain the freedom you have.”

Here are some ideas for how to help your student make their own choices and boundaries.

  1. Understand that this is a self-control goal. We all struggle with self-control in some area of our life. As students grow up, they will expose many areas in their life that need self-control. Technology use is just one of them. When we focus on the underlying problem, it is not just a battle for more technology time. So helping them see the importance of self-control is key. As they buy in, the idea that technology is a tool (not a toy) can help shape why it is important to regulate their own screen time.


  1. Finding the right monitor or software is not the solution. I love that Amazon Kindle for kids highlights that you can set time limits and access limits for your kids. But this is really about you as the adult not being engaged and relying on the tech to do the monitoring. This is not a slam on you as a parent, it is pointing out that if we are not watching and paying attention to what our kids are doing, we will miss when something doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. We also wrongly communicate that the device is in control. This is not something I want my kids to think. I want them to have the power over their device and not be controlled by it. Starting at 8 years old, my wife and I expect our kids to set their own timer for their screen time. This puts them in charge, and if they don’t use it responsibly, then they lose the privilege of using a device.


  1. Using technology is a privilege, not a right. Just because other kids get certain devices doesn’t mean everyone does. Just because the school lets a student have extended periods of iPod or ChromeBook use doesn’t mean that happens at my house. The use of technology is for those willing to accept the responsibility that comes along with that. This means that your teenager should be happy to let you look at their text messages, social media interactions and location tracking. The balance of this is that you, as the parent, handle this the right way. Ask yourself, “Have I created a welcoming environment where my teen knows they can approach potentially uncomfortable conversations without me “freaking out”?” If not, start creating that space now and changing the way you interact with your teen so they can learn the lessons they need to before they leave the safety of your home.


  1. Finally, be okay with mistakes. Teenagers are going to make mistakes as they learn these lessons. You must be willing to work with them. Understand you are in the coaching stage. It is really too late to discipline life lessons into them, although there are sometimes consequences of actions. But instead, you are there to hear from your teen how that decision has affected what they want to do and who they want to be. Then, help them find a solution to correct things and move on. Ultimately you are helping them learn how to make decisions so they can keep making the right ones.

I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and that your 2018 begins with some focused and intentional ways your family can work together even better this coming year.


What else would you add here? What have you seen work in trying to help your teenager self regulate and use their technology as a tool not a distraction?


Ricky Lewis is our CEO and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 7, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.

How to Set Up Your Kid’s New iPhone

How to Set Up Your Kid’s New iPhone

If you are a parent, you will no doubt get a request from a child this holiday season for a new iPhone (or iPod, iPad, etc.). When this happens there is always the thought, as a parent, of what to do about safety and monitoring. Now, if you have a 13-year-old or older, you will definitely want to involve them in the process I’m outlining here so they know that they have a say in how boundaries are set up. For those of us that have younger kids, we need to use this as an opportunity to begin creating good technology-related boundaries.

For this post, I’m going to specifically discuss settings and tools related to iOS 10 (the software on Apple products). That being true, the principles will apply to other operating systems such as the  Windows Phone and Android, but the process will look different.

The goal here is to set up and use settings and built-in options that help keep kids safe and monitor their use. This monitoring is not to look over their shoulder, but so that you can have helpful conversations about how to use technology as a tool rather than it becoming a distraction that keeps us from accomplishing the important things in life. The truth is technology has contributed to some amazing things being discovered or accomplished, but it has also contributed to some negative effects on people that could have a lasting impact.

With that as the background, let’s walk through some things you want to be aware of and others you need to set up when you first get a new iDevice so that you are setting your child up for success!


Silencing the distractions
In iOS 10 for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, it is easy to mute the device using the “do not disturb” button. This is enabled by simply swiping up from the bottom of the screen and selecting the button with the half-moon on it. I think this is the most under-used setting in iOS. You don’t have to only use it during funerals, you can also use it during dinner or homework so the phone doesn’t even go off. It is great for keeping those annoying alerts from interrupting chore time or story time in the evenings. Trust me, the fact that there is a new coin or they have almost reached the level that unlocks the greatest player ever is not worth how hard it will be to recover their attention when it dings. Use it anytime you don’t want the device making noise. The advantage to using this rather then the airplane mode is that it still allows notifications to get through, it just won’t alert you. In case you are not familiar with this feature, watch this YouTube video to learn more.


Enable Keyboard Clicks
I personally do not like the clicking noise that the digital keyboard makes by default. Because of this, I turn it off anytime I get a new device. However, if you have a device just for the kids, like we do at our house, I recommend keeping keyboard clicks on. The benefit here is that I can hear if my kids are typing something. It’s an audible alert that they don’t think about but can prompt me to go over and see what they are up to. It is a great way to be curious and talk to them about how they are using the iPad but not come across as, “What in the world are you doing now?”


Set the password yourself
I don’t know where the idea came from that kids need privacy and space, but it is mostly wrong. Yes, hopefully they gain more responsibility as they get older, but privacy is only a way for them to hide things that you as a parent probably need to be talking to them about. They can have privacy when they move out and you have invested 18 years teaching them how to make the good choices and they are now in complete control of choosing on their own (and I am overstating this for emphasis, obviously there are times when appropriate privacy is okay, but that’s not the point here). So setting a password, or better yet a finger print, is a must. I would recommend changing the password occasionally, too. Just to keep them honest. This serves two purposes, #1: That they do not have unrestricted access to the device and just use it whenever they want and #2: That they do not have unrestricted access to the device. Okay, so those two are really one, but I hope you get the point. Unrestricted access for anyone that doesn’t have a monthly income and pay their own rent or mortgage is not okay because they are still learning the life lessons they need to have that unrestricted access.


Turn on Automatic Downloads
One of the settings you definitely want turned on as a parent is automatic downloads. Inevitably, your kids will download something without you knowing. No, it is not certain that they will need your password (or that they won’t somehow find it out). So if you enable auto download on your device, you’ll know everything that’s downloaded on any device connected to your account. This is a simple and easy way to keep tabs on what apps kids are using. You should never have to say, “I don’t really know what app they use with their friends,” because if you have this enabled, you can ask them about it when it gets downloaded. Once you have had the conversation with them, you can simply delete it from your device. Unless of course you want to play the game too!


Set Restrictions
Turning on restrictions is a good plan for you and your kids. Of course as an adult, I can download whatever I want and visit any site I feel like but there may be a time where it’s good for me to pause and consider whether the content on that app or site is really worth my time. This is a great lesson for kids to learn. It may mean a little bit of a headache (sometimes it does for me) if the restriction is too restrictive. But the benefit of forcing a conversation with your child that you should be having anyway is worth the few extra minutes each week or month it will take you to punch in an extra password to allow things that didn’t need to be restricted.


If you are unfamiliar with how to get to any of the settings I talked about in this post, do what I do. Search on YouTube and find a video that walks you through the process step by step.

I hope these settings and features help you and you kids have some healthy conversations around technology use. In addition, I hope they help set up needed boundaries for you and your kids so that the technology is not in control but still available as a tool and a little fun now and then too.

So, what do you think? How have you set boundaries for your students and how have they responded? How have you failed at this and done better? Let us know!

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.