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In a study on the use of digital technology, a group of teens from Los Angeles yeshiva high schools were asked the following: When you are a parent and have teenage children of your own, how will you handle their use of digital technology differently than your parents did with you? More than half answered that they would be more restrictive than their parents.

That, says Dr. David Pelcovitz, renowned psychologist and lecturer extraordinaire, is an indicator of how important it is for parents today to set technology rules and limits. Dr. Pelcovitz joined ICJA March 22-23 to speak to teachers, students and the community as part of ICJA’s Strategic Plan. He cited the LA study by prominent therapist Debbie Fox in his community talk. (We urge you to watch the entire engaging community talk on our Facebook page.) As part of that LA survey, says Dr. Pelcovitz, the students said, how will I ever get out of my head the images that I have seen? And how will I ever get back that time that I’ve squandered?

National research shows, says Dr. Pelcovitz, that kids respond to rules and that reasonable parental restrictions work. The earlier parents start, the more likely they are to be successful. All of this must be done in the spirit of “authoritative parenting,” which Dr. Pelcovitz says is the balance between love and limits. “All love, no limits–kids grow up to be over indulged. All limits no love–this stuff won’t work. Rules without relationships equals rebellion. The middle is authoritative parenting.”

Dr. Pelcovitz adds, that families are more likely to be successful in setting technology limits if they get together and do it as a community.

He offers the following recommendations to teaching kids how to be responsible online. Needless to say, these recommendations only work when parents are committed to modeling reasonable technology limits. While every family is different and it is harder to implement new technology rules for older children, some of these recommendations will still apply to every family. Dr. Pelcovitz says, “When I do contracts with kids, if it’s reasonable, they want it. This might be doable in some form. When you go to from threat to challenge, you do much better.”

  1. Keep technology out of the bedroom: the light interferes with sleep, and it’s extremely difficult to control
  2. Children should ask permission to use technology
  3. Limit the use of weekday technology, which will vary from family to family
  4. Parents should be the one who downloads apps and games. Check them out first on Common Sense Media
  5. Oversee YouTube
  6. Children should report any inappropriate exposure online
  7. Don’t permit technology use during meals
  8. Designate screen-free times for the entire family
  9. Make technology a privilege and not a right

Following is a sample media contract for a tween or teen:

  1. My parents agree to listen to my concerns before setting limits and guidelines.
  2. In helping me learn from my mistakes, my parents agree not to criticize or punish me when I go to them in need.
  3. My parents agree to give me more freedom and responsibility with continued safe use.
  4. My smartphone is given to adult when doing homework.
  5. I agree to uni tasking during homework
  6. I will aim for balance and try not to let technology use interfere with reading and time with friends.
  7. I’ll turn off technology by ___ time on school nights and by ___ time on weekends.
  8. I will not use technology in my bedroom and will use it in the common areas of house. I will charge my phone in the common area.
  9. I will not text while driving (consider locking the phone in trunk or glove department while driving)
  10. My parents will occasionally check my texts and emails.
  11. I will occasionally share my online activity with my parents
  12. My parents will have passwords (and no one else)
  13. Make my parents aware of my social media sites.


Helpful Resources:

TAG: Local organization that will help you add a filter to any device that makes sense for your family.

Common Sense Media: Read unbiased information and trusted advice rating apps, movies and more for children.

Personalized Family Media Use Plan from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Our Pact: Manage kids’ online access and schedule on multiple devices all from your own phone.

Dr. Pelcovitz’s community talk at ICJA video

Isolation versus Inoculation: Guidelines for Parents in Meeting the Challenge of Digital Technology by Dr. David Pelcovitz in The Klal Perspectives Journal

Screen Smart Parenting by Jodi Gold, MD





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