Practical Boundaries to Help Your Kids Navigate Technology and Save Their Mental Health


Disclaimer :: This article is sponsored by Children’s Health to bring you information on mental health issues in children.

tween girl hugging father with smiling mother looking on in the background So much of our parenting is a response to our own childhood experiences: What did we appreciate? What was valuable? What did we learn from? What do we want to do differently? Our frame of reference informs our choices. However, when it comes to today’s parents, we are parenting a bit in the dark.

Technology is now a huge, growing part of our lives, but that was not the case when we were kids. Sure, technology was around; it was nowhere near the level it is today. Social media and other platforms changed the way we interact with other people, childhood social structures, and more. So, how do we wisely raise tech-savvy and often tech-absorbed kids? How can we interact with technology in a healthy way and teach our kids good habits?

The TikTok in the Room

The elephant, uh TikTok, in the room is that there is more and more evidence that shows technology use — hello, social media — impacts a person’s mental health. And by person, we mean kids too. It took a while for our society to even accept what should be obvious about mental health: Anxiety and depression are not limited to adults. Kids can be just as affected.

As parents, we need to pay attention to our children’s mental health just as we pay attention to their physical health.

(While we do not have time in this article to deep dive into this topic, check out an article published by Children’s Health, “How to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health: 8 Ways You Can Improve Your Child’s Mental Health.”)

a group of teens all looking at their phonesWhy are mental health issues on the rise for our kids? The experts at Children’s Health answer this question in the article, “Rise of Mental Health Issues in Children: Tips to Help Parents Support Their Kids’ Mental Well-Being”:

  • Bullying and/or cyberbullying, which can be worse for certain groups of youth, such as members of the LGBTQ community.
  • Mental health stigma that prevents people from getting help.
  • Overuse of social media and/or negative impacts of social media apps or certain online sites.
  • Perceived pressure to excel at school, extracurricular activities, and other responsibilities.
  • Stress of increasingly busy schedules.

Consider This

If you have a child in school, you know the pressures to have a device (phone, watch, tablet, etc.) and then to have access to text threads, apps, and social media. There is this push and pull to protect and to guide but also to allow your child to participate in the social structure that does include technology.

If your child does have access to devices, Dr. Nicholas J. Westers, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Health, asks you to consider these guidelines with your family:

  • Digital hygiene — establish “no device” times, balance technology use with non-tech activities, try a tech-free day for the whole family, and take technology out of the bedroom.
  • Digital etiquette — teach manners, which are the same offline as they are online; rarely use sarcasm via text, etc.; teach boundaries about when to respond (doesn’t have to be immediately and shouldn’t respond if you have big feelings); and identify cyberbullying behaviors.
  • Digital safety — don’t assume your child “would never” this or that; specifically and intentionally talk about boundaries like never meeting anyone in person he or she has only met online . . . never giving out identifying or personal information; and create safety nets for your child through blocks and filters.

(For more information on this topic, we highly recommend reading “Is Technology Affecting Your Child’s Mental Health?”)

These tips can help your child build healthy tech habits that not only impact their childhood days, but that also can grow with them into adulthood — because who knows what tech will look like in the decades to come.

And do you know what will really, really make these healthy tech habits stick (maybe more than anything else)? When your kids observe YOU prioritizing your mental health, encouraging open communication, modeling tech boundaries and safety, and all of the above. THAT will create a frame of reference for their futures. Let’s create healthy habits for our kids now so they have a foundation to build upon and improve later when they become parents.

Children's Health logo For more than 100 years, Children’s Health’s mission has been to make life better for children. Since its humble beginnings in 1913 as a baby camp, it has had a long-standing commitment to this community that includes not only high-quality patient care, but also advocacy, education, and preventive care with an unwavering focus on its mission. Connect with Children’s Health on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.


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