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How to stop or curb teens and technology?

Original post made by PAUSD Parent, Palo Alto High School, on Aug 18, 2019

Any experienced parents have ideas on how to curb technology for their teens? Teachers incorporate homework on the computers these days so they can't simply unplug. Students are multi-tasking with social media, texting, YouTubing, gaming. Technology isn't all bad, it's informative and entertaining but even as adults, we are distracted with it.

Some parents just have their students do their homework in a shared living area so they are supervised but I want to give my child independence too. Some cut the wifi at a certain hour. But again, they have homework on the computer.

Surely, someone is going to say to set limits, but I'd like more details on that, like what did you do and what works.

Any other ideas? Thanks.

Comments (6)

5 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2019 at 2:53 pm

I don't think technology is the problem. The problem is poor time management, eg wasting time on meaningless tasks like social media and video games. Parents need to work with their kids on more constructive uses of their time, eg sports, music lessons, etc. Even old-fashioned activities like reading books or playing basketball or going for a bike ride with neighborhood kids is very constructive.


2 people like this
Posted by Browser extensions
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2019 at 6:12 pm

Browser extensions is a registered user.

My teen doesn't have a smartphone because he doesn't manage his time well. He has a basic cell phone with call and text capability and can use my smartphone when (if) he's gotten his stuff done. For the laptop, we use the stayfocusd browser extension on Chrome which allows you to set a time limit for certain apps. It works pretty well though he somehow manages to find ways to waste time even on the allowed sites, like doing the NY Times crossword or playing games that other people have written on the Scratch site. So he still doesn't get his stuff done, but it's less bad than it could be and I expect somewhere deep inside the recesses of his teen brain he is learning to think about maybe one day managing his time.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2019 at 6:59 pm

A couple of things, first be careful how much you use technology in front of them. What they see you do they think they can do also.

Next have family meal times sitting at the table together with no technology. And do not let them take food to their rooms. Once again, you have to do the same or it won't work.

Get them to do chores with you, or help with dinner, and talk to them while working together. It is easier to have a conversation when you don't have to look at each other because you are busy cutting veg or doing dishes.


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2019 at 3:59 pm

Personally, I despise shoot ‘em up and other video games - just crap.
I haven’t referenced this for awhile, but remember a tv documentary episode (something like 60 minutes) that had elite professors (Stanford, MIT) discuss the “new problem/challenge” of how most students were looking at laptops, phones, apps, etc. during class lecture, convinced they could multi-task. The researchers/professors scientifically demonstrated that they couldn’t. The elite young adult students (high confidence in self) asserted they could. With the high regard for elite universities here, perhaps your teens will respect the above story.
Hunched backs, aching shoulders, lack of eye contact, bullying, narcissism, curating of pursed lip posed Instagram photos. Blech.
P.S. I am middle-aged, not elderly.


2 people like this
Posted by You cannot
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2019 at 4:58 pm

I don’t think any such rules work. The student has to learn this the hard way and self impose time management

Let’s say you take the phone away. They will be disgruntled..probably won’t do the work. You cut off the WiFi. May work in case of elementary or middle school kids. In case of high school kids they Need the WiFi for homework

Some kids can multitask efficiently. Music blaring in their ears, Instagram, Snapchat going on and hammering on the keyboard to complete that English essay .. most others spend time on the phone and then stay awake till past 1am attempting to do homework. It’s distressing to see how many kids are online at 1am

The student has to govern his or her time. If the student is open to discussion working a schedule of keep the phone away till you get math done can help. The incremental change of attitude helps

Keeping the photo away for dinner and other such things events is a good strategy


2 people like this
Posted by Just because you CAN...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2019 at 8:22 pm


Web Link
“You could say that it’s my responsibility” to exert self-control when it comes to digital usage, he explains, “but that’s not acknowledging that there’s a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job is to break down whatever responsibility I can maintain.”
-former Google executive Tristan Harris

I look at this a little differently because we have a self-directed learner (homeschooler) in our house. Being able to have autonomy with technology is critical for that kind of education. It's a struggle, though, especially since not everyone is affected identically. But it's such a problem for so many in self-directed learning, in which *controlling* teens is just anathema, the last time I went to an education conference, the addictiveness of technology (interfering with what people want to do) came up in every last workshop and seminar.

I have long thought that this is the first, best application of artificial intelligence -- not to put people out of work, but to give ordinary people control of their lives again by being personal assistant and technical support but also individual technological defense -- countering the attention merchant strategies so people can use the technology when and how they want, in the most efficient way for them, and not waste anymore of their lives fiddling with technology than is absolutely necessary.

Instead of the Matrix or Limitless model of technology-human relationships, this would give us the six-million dollar man relationship (technology always to make us stronger, better, etc). I want AI that finally lets me live my life and use my technology the way I want, regardless of what the attention merchants are doing, and not be such an overwhelming burden on time and attention in order to just get an elusive and inferior version of what I want to get from the technology.


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