Seven Values & Goals to Setting Technology Limits: A Personal Story

Technology Limits – A Personal Story

In January I shared a general article on setting technology limits titled, My Top Ten Tips for Setting Technology Limits. Setting technology limits for your family is a personal decision based on the values that you have, so there is no one policy that will fit every family.  So this month, I will share an intimate look at how my family works with setting tech limits….

After the holidays this past year, we had a Nintendo Wii, an iPad, an iPod, an iPhone, 2 Macintosh computers, and 2 kid computers from grandparents, and plus television. It was a constant process to decide what was enough for the day and how to keep things in balance. My wife and I believe that children should get a balance of daily activities: physical, musical, mathematical, technological, language/literacy, spiritual, interpersonal, and nature/natural. We needed to balance things since my 5yo son, Aidan, was very drawn to electronics and not getting enough of the other activities we value. The constant negotiations were very taxing with the accompanying problems when Aidan did not get his way. So I came up with the idea of setting a daily schedule to: balance the types of activities; eliminate negotiations on what the limits were; and to provide structure for our son.

Parents do need to set limits. As an elementary school teacher, I see lots of problems at home and at school when children do not have appropriate limit setting. It’s my belief that children need limits to feel safe and loved despite their protests to the contrary at times. Of course, you can be too strict as well, which has its own issues. In terms of technology, the devices can become over important if kids can barely or never use them. They can also miss valuable technology experiences.

In setting up a schedule, I looked at these seven values and goals and apply:

  1. A daily family dinner together is very important to us.
  2. I did not want any non-educational technology before school.
  3. Daily reading was important.
  4. A balance of types of activities was important.
  5. We wanted face-to-face time when my son came home from school or afterschool.
  6. Weekends could be more relaxed but would still have limits.
  7. We factored in things that go well before other activities. For example, one educational show before bedtime makes a good transition to sleep.


Our before school routine is the same every weekday. I wake our son up by 7am if not already awake. We read 3 books. One is a leveled reader Aidan reads to me, which we say is his homework. One is a storybook and one book is his choice. We found this structure necessary so he would not always choose franchise superhero and Star Wars books. After he gets dressed, he can watch up to one half-hour educational show before school if time permits. These are usually PBS Kids shows.


After school, we play or go outside before dinner. The after dinner schedule varies. We have baths on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and Friday nights, Aidan gets one half-hour of choice time, which tends to be iPad (watching superhero trailers, listening to music he has earned, playing just for fun games like Temple Run, or Wii Super Mario). (Aidan and I have had a lot of fun playing Super Mario together. It really takes a lot of teamwork to play successfully.) Tuesdays and Fridays are movie nights, with Friday being a special family “popcorn movie night.”


Wednesday is our family night with no screens for kids or parents. We found this initially daunting to think of activities for the whole night without electronics, especially in the winter. It is also challenging to break our own habits of checking in frequently on Facebook and email. But we have come to really value this time. We tend to have one parent with Aidan a lot so the family time with all three of us is important. We will do art activities, play blocks, action figures, gross motor activities in the basement, coloring, board games, music, or dance. Last week, Aidan got interesting in my album collection. I did have to explain what they were first! He liked looking at the covers and choosing albums. We ended up having a great time discovering and dancing to the B-52s first album. This time is important in modeling behavior such as playing board games and just plain having fun as a family. While it’s good to have some activities ready, we found you can also let the child take the lead. A five year old is infinite source of play ideas. When they gravitate towards electronics strongly though, we find they really need this “no screen time” to discover other creative pursuits.


For bedtime, we go through the same reading routine as the morning.


Weekends are more flexible but we stick to ½ hour limit on technology at a time. A daily outside walk is part of our routine as well. We are thinking of adding some non-education television on weekends especially on Saturday morning when we are cleaning house and doing chores. Aidan quickly adapted to new routine and mentioned it if we did not stick to it. The constant negotiations and protests are gone, and we are having lots of family fun.


John Heffernan ♦ Tech Talk: Supporting Creative Play with Technology

John is currently the technology teacher the Williamsburg Schools. He has also worked as an educational technology consultant, a third grade teacher, and as a software engineer.  He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Tufts and a Masters of Education from Lesley University.   John lives in Conway with his wife, 5 year old son, and 2 whippets.  In additional to his interest in technology, John is a juggler, musician, and animal tracker.  Read more about his engineering adventures at

[Photo credit: (ccl) Paul Mayne]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: