What Your Kids Want You To Know: Social Media and Tech Rules Youth Wish Their Parents Would Follow

Nourishing Habits™ Digital Wellness Coaching and Lifestyle is thrilled to feature Havi Wolfson Hall, LCSW as a guest writer. Havi is a fellow social worker and founder of Health-E-Connections, a private therapy practice focused on balancing our lives online and offline. Havi currently focuses her work with children, adolescents, and their families at JFCS Parents Place in Palo Alto, CA.


The Technology and Social Media Rules Kids and Teens Wish Their Parents Would Follow

A recent research study entitled “Not at the Dinner Table: Parents’ and Children’s Perspectives on Family Technology Rules” found that the majority of the 259 families studied have rules around social media and technology. It also found that only 6% of families have no rules or expectations at all about technology use.  The researchers asked the same questions to the parents and children in each family and the conclusions were eye opening.

This study also generated seven general rules children wished their parents would follow: 

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1. Be Present. Given the rapid rise of different types of technology available to us today we as adults often have difficulty monitoring ourselves when it comes to technology. Our kids are reporting that we are the ones with the inability to put away our phones.  As their role models it is incumbent on us to demonstrate we are taking the time to be mindful and present with them, rather than prioritizing our screens.

2. Child autonomy. Our children can only show us how capable they are when we give them the chance to prove it! Within the limits of the rules created as a family, show your children that you trust them. Once that baseline trust is created, additional responsibilities can be added.  Start with devices that are closed systems, for example nothing with web browsing capabilities or internet access. As your children’s needs increase, so, too can their devices.  We do not hand over the keys to a race car as soon as our kids pass the drivers permit! Same should be said for technological devices. 

3. Moderate use. If our children had a say, they would ask us to balance our technology use with other activities. Find times throughout the day where you put your phone away, breakfast time, in the car, and dinner time are great times to start!  Fill the time with other activities you can do as a family. Family meals, walks, game night, etc. are all great bonding activities that naturally lend themselves to increased communication and feelings of connectedness.

4. Supervise but don’t Intrude. Our children might not like our rules, but our children also want us and need us to help keep them safe. The research also found that children are more open to our rules when those rules are around their personal safety and welfare, as opposed to when we set rules related to issues of personal taste. When first introducing a device to your child or deciding to add a new function or app to the device, go over the owner manual and tutorials so that you and your child are learning together. Be clear with your children that “Supervision” is not the same as “Spying”. When children understand that there will be routine checks of their devices, they will be more cognizant of how their devices are used. Communicate with your child that you trust them with their device, and mistakes will be made, but they will not lose their device as a punishment. Instead their device will get an appropriate downgrade. This will keep your lines of communication open and honest so that you are seen as more of an influence and guide rather than an authoritarian.

5. Not while driving. Not even at traffic lights! Children want us to stop texting or looking at our phones when we’re behind the wheel, even if we’re stopped at traffic lights. They’re watching everything we do. One day they’ll be driving, and when they are, we will want them to put their phones down too.

6. Don’t overshare. They really don’t want us to share information about them without their explicit permission. According to Sarita Schoenebeck, assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and one of the authors of the study, ‘Twice as many children as parents expressed concerns about family members over sharing personal information about them on Facebook and other social media without permission … Many children said they found that content embarrassing and felt frustrated when their parents continued to do it.” Also by setting appropriate boundaries for your own posting, you are setting an example of personal boundaries for your children so later in life they, too, will not overshare.

7. Practice what you preach. Kids and teens want their parents to practice what they preach. For example putting the phone down when everyone at the table should be a rule that applies to everyone. As a family when you create your technology rules, be mindful that these are rules for every family member, even the parents. This helps everyone be more accountable for their own actions and more likely to follow the rules.   

Take Action


Reboot’s National Day of Unplugging is a 24 hour respite from digital devices.  This year it will be taking place from sundown March 9th-Sundown March 10th. Try putting away your phone in one of their “cell phone sleeping bags” available at Parents Place locations. It can be for one hour, the whole day or somewhere in between! It may impact you in a way you never expected.

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As an agency we are dedicated to the idea of responsible use of technology and are here to assist your family create your own Family Rules around Technology particularly if it has become a cause of stress in your home.

For further information contact Havi Wolfson Hall, LCSW to set up an appointment at 650-699-3080 or havih@jfcs.org


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Havi Wolfson Hall, LCSW

Child and Adolescent Therapist

At Parents Place and JFCS Havi is one of our Child and Adolescent Specialists specializing in child anxiety, depression, self-regulation, and internet addiction. She has worked as a psychotherapist since 2000 and was previously at Jewish Family Services in Los Angeles where she treated individuals, couples, and families coping with issues such as anxiety, depression, grief, and divorce. She also led groups and provided workshops in the community on post-traumatic stress, addiction, and cybersafety. Before moving to the Bay Area in 2010, Havi grew a private therapy practice called Health-E-Connections which focused on the ever evolving issues regarding how to balance our lives online and offline. Havi has a Master’s degree from Hebrew Union College in Jewish Communal Service and an MSW from The USC School of Social Work.