by Dr Ray Swann

Digital detox

It didn’t make sense to cut off the connection to others and schools were delivering their curriculum to students online.

As we head back to our regular routines for the holidays, it’s important to again put some boundaries in place for your son around his total time spend online.

Here is a three-step process that may assist with the transition:

Step 1: Set up the conversation

Be prepared that it will be a negotiation, so be firm but fair and separate your son from his behaviour. He will push back and that’s normal. You don’t want to crush his pushback, but draw it into a structured negotiation. It’s all part of the learning for him.

Co-design as many of the ‘boundaries’ as you can by considering the best time to have the chat about his online screen time (the last night of term is not the time!), then set up a time to talk with him and give him an outline of what you would like to talk about (that way he can think about it ahead of time).

Step 2: Have the conversation

Determine your non-negotiables (total time, what kind of apps/games) prior to your conversation. Also work out what may be annoying but not essential to you. Does a brief check of the phone for messages need to be counted in terms of time?

Open up the conversation with the win-wins – ‘We don’t want to have a break where we are constantly arguing about you being online. My suggestion is that we have a chat about it all and then draw up an agreement.’

Put some of the other fun things on the table and talk about ideas for the holidays that don’t involve technology, such as learning a new skill, seeing friends, listening to music, or trying something creative.

Set out your non-negotiables – ‘I’ve looked at technology recommendations and this is what I think is fair and reasonable. I’m your parent and I have to set some boundaries. Some of the things I won’t budge on are [explain], but I’m open to talking about how you feel about this and what you think is a reasonable position.’

Boundaries could include- no screen time before 2.00pm, a two hour maximum session with a maximum of three sessions in a day and all screen time finished and phone in by 9.00pm

Step 3: Draw up your agreement

The final step is to write out the agreement together. It can include three columns listing his rights to screen time, his responsibilities (such as no more than 6 hours in any day (nor do two 6 hour days in a row) and outcomes if these responsibilities are breached (a warning, a session ban or an all day ban).

Most importantly, put the agreement on the fridge or somewhere public and continue to discuss (and model) healthy tech use!


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Dr Ray Swann is Deputy Headmaster and Head of Crowther Centre at Brighton Grammar School, an all-boys school in Melbourne. His professional background includes consulting, research, lecturing and coaching This article is about


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