Teenage sons - Internet/computer schedule

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-09-2014
Teenage sons - Internet/computer schedule
Sun, 02-09-2014 - 5:09pm

Hi guys,

So, my two sons ( 13 and 15) are kind of abusing their computer/gadget time. I've been kind of easy on them with not imposing time limits and I've always felt that because I'm very busy I should be more permissive with them. 

Of course, that meant that they spend roughly 80% of their free time online or playing . 
I'm not the most well-informed parent when it comes to computer-safety, but I wanted something to help me limit/monitor what they're doing. I'm not trying to snoop or anything. I just want to know that they're not browsing through adult sites or stuff like that. 

Long story short, I found this app called Qustodio (www.qustodio.com) and I installed it on my laptop. The app works pretty good (in it's free version) and it monitors web activity, facebook and all that, along with providing a sort of time-lock on the gadgets on which it's installed.

So far, I like the darn thing. But...I haven't discussed it with the kids yet. I really don't know how to do it. I mean, I don't want to come off as being a strict parent, yet I really need to implement a system. 

Any idea as to how I'm supposed to talk to them about this?  Even the slightest mention of me "controling" their computer time would result in a major fight, as they tend to gang up on me in arguments.

Thanks and sorry for writing so much :)

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Mon, 02-10-2014 - 12:32am

Welcome to our corner of the village.

More information is always helpful.

From what I read, I assume you are a single mom who works, the guys have lots of time before you get home, etcetera  I also assume the word “playing” means “on line gaming.”

My personal opinion is that all is fair in love, war, and parenting, and sometimes parenting can seem like war.   Joking on the last point, but it sometimes feels that way.  To me keeping an eye on what’s happening is appropriate and advisable.  When merited, I think snooping is appropriate also.

“80% of their free time” is a bit vague without knowing the number of free time hours they have.  80% of one hour per day is 48 minutes, whereas 80% of five hours per day would be 4 hours per day.  I’m guessing that you’re talking about several hours a day, which means lots of eye strain.  Another concern would be how well they are doing in school.  Is the homework getting done?  Are grades being sacrificed for excessive gaming time? 

As you’re aware, teens are smarter than us old fogies on all the latest tech gadgets and there are lots of them from desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones, x-box, IPods, etcetera. They also know how to evade lots of detection software.  They are smart and know where to find websites to learn how to evade these detections.

I know this is going to come as a shock to you, but teens are extremely curious about sex and the internet has lots to offer on that subject. (Obviously joking about your being shocked by this.)   Not sure if turning off your internet service will stop them from visiting those types of sites,  as they can always bum access of the neighbors via wireless, etcetera.  Early on our girls bartered mowing service with the next door neighbor couple for a cable cord and wireless access. They did not get the nicknames “Thelma and Louise” for no good reason.    

You need to be having “the TALK” with both boys and it should be a conversation, not a one way lecture.  They need to know that love is more than sex.  They need to know that girls get pregnant, how they get pregnant, how easily they get pregnant, how birth control and condoms do fail, and that a child will have a major impact on lots of lives.

In the next couple of months, our teen daughters and their hubbies will all on 21-teen and 22-teen. The couples started hanging/dating in 7th and 8th grade. Younger couple was in the gifted and talented program and skipped over 8th into high school and they all granulated together.   Unlike most teens they did not have cell phones, iPods, gaming systems because they all wanted to use that money elsewhere and they attended the same classes and did most things together anyway.  Nor did any of the four have a gaming habit, or Facebook habit.  (Yes very dull.   LOL)  And their schedules were very full with classes, study, school activities, a mowing business, movies, Six Flags, and Hurricane Harbor waterpark, and vacations with all three sets of parents.     

Your boys are at about the right age to start a neighborhood mowing service.  Our couples did it for four  summers because they earned about $12 per hour verses the real jobs down at the mall or hamburger stand that paid $7 per hour.  They learned people skills along the way and that work is a more productive use of time than gaming and TV. We and the guys families also gave them control over money for cloths, school lunches, hair care, etcetera with conditions like accounting for every dime so that it didn’t end up in a bong, glass pipe, nose straw, etcetera.  They got real careful with spending “their money.”

Hubby and I always had the ability to have conversations with the girls, and with the guys as they became permanent elements in the equation.  I would suggest finding lots of time, like on a weekend, to go down to the Costco for dogs and pizza and open up a conversation on how, in your opinion, gaming is consuming too much of your lives boys.  My style is lots of questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no.  Questions like: Can you explain why gaming 7 hours a day is not excessive?   Please explain why gaming is more important that doing better in school?   Please explain how gaming will help you career wise?  Where can we find middle ground on this issue boys?  How can we work together on this issue boys?  ETCETERA.  And you don’t have to accomplish everything in one day, one week, or one month.  Slow progress will get you there. 

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Mon, 02-10-2014 - 1:48am

Mom, you've got some major problems here.  First off is THIS:  <<<I've always felt that because I'm very busy I should be more permissive with them.>>>  WHAAA???  Because you are busy not spending time with them, you should ignore what they do even MORE?  Bad move.  Time you are not with them should be VERY structured, and LESS permissive.  Ever hear "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop"? 

Next, I'll wager that these kids, who spend 80% of their free time sitting on their asses in front of a screen, need some SERIOUS exercise, and to lose weight.  Besides being mentally unhealthy, this is physically unhealthy as well. 

Then there's THIS:  <<<Even the slightest mention of me "controling" their computer time would result in a major fight, as they tend to gang up on me in arguments.>>>  Major fight?  Who's running your asylum?  Are the 13 & 15 year olds telling YOU what they will and won't do?  Sorry lady, my kids learned when they were toddlers, that the fastest way to lose the fight, toy, or privilege, was to argue with their parents. 

TELL your CHILDREN, that you, the PARENT are going to institute some changes.  The first is only 1 hour per day on a device, and that will be at the kitchen table, where YOU can see what they are doing and who they are talking to.  Tell them if they even open their mouthes to inhale, you will sell EVERY device in the house (except for your own, which you will keep with you) on Craigslist.

The only phone they need is a cheapie, with 30 emergency minutes on it.  PERIOD.

Then they need a list of chores and activities to occupy their time.  Homework, chores-walk the dog, do their laundry, clean their rooms, start the dinner, clean the dishes, vaccum the floors, etc, etc-- & volunteer work come first.  Then things like instrument lessons, band practice, sports lessons, sport practice, club meetings, club activities, church youth group.  Then jobs around the neighborhood--dog walker, pet sitter, baby sitter, lawn care, snow removal. etc.  They need to earn money to buy and SUPPORT those devices they now spend SOOO much time on. 

And if they ever want to get a license and to put one foot in a car, they better be making good grades, and enough money from a part-time job to pay for it all.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Mon, 02-10-2014 - 11:48am

I have an 18 yr old son & almost 25 yr old DD and really spending time on the computer was never so much of an issue that I had to think of limiting their time on it or installing monitoring software.  Neither one of them was every really into video games.  As a funny aside, once I got a computer virus when DS was pretty young--it used to pop up with porn sites.  I remember him calling me and saying "Mom, come in here, I think there are things on the computer that you wouldn't want me to see."  lol

Of course I think that the major reason that they weren't wasting all their time on the computer or TV was that they were too busy with other things to do.  Now in our area, kids really can't get jobs until they are 16.  We had after school programs in the middle school but of course by high school they are supposedly too old for babysitters--but are there things to sign them up for after school?  I know it's difficult when you are a working single mother--I am too.  It's also harder when your kids aren't in the same school.  In our school to make it easy for parents and kids who have to take the bus, they have clubs that meet after school for a short time so everyone can take the "late bus" home--is your older one involved in any kind of school activities?  I always emphasized that you could be the smartest kid in school but if all you do is school work and have no activities, then you still wont' get into college.  DD was much more of a joiner plus she liked sports, so she was on the track team, social committee, did Best Buddies (partnering with a kid who has some disabilities), National Honor Society, and probably other things.  DS doesn't like sports and in 9th grade he wasn't doing much, but gradually he developed interestes and now he's editor of the online school paper, also National Honor Society, Gay-Straight Alliance, Rotary Interact, etc., etc.

You notice both kids are smart--they didn't get those grades by spending all their time on the computer.  When DS got old enough to stay home alone (after big sis was in college) he filled up the time after school by doing his HW before I came home from work because he did like his TV shows.  But of course his grades were good so I didn't have to monitor all his HW--I knew he was doing it.  If his grades were not good, then I would have been checking the HW every night.  Now as a senior, he is in 3 AP classes.

You really can't look at it like "I'm busy so I'l let them do whatever they want."  I assume you are busy because you have to work to provide for the kids, not that you're leaving them alone so you can go out having fun with your friends and are just ignoring your kids.  If that's the case, then you should be staying home more so you can actually do things with your kids.  But you know, parents have to work and you can't feel guilty about it.  Your job is to work and theirs is to go to school.  I was not the best at making my kids do a lot of chores, but they did their own laundry and some other probably minor stuff.  While the kids are waiting for you to come home from work, they could be doing some chores, helping to get dinner ready and at least doing their HW.  So what if they "gang up" on you?  You are actually the one who has the power to take things away and make their life miserable.  You shouldn't be afraid to stand up to your kids.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2000
Mon, 02-10-2014 - 12:31pm

Hi and welcome to the board. I agree with the others that you shouldn't feel you should be lax with the kids because you're so busy. And there's no reason a major fight should ensue if you implement some changes. Simply let them know what changes you plan to make, listen to their view if they can express it calmly, and then implement the changes. All that being said - you said they spend 80% of their FREE time online. Do their grades reflect that they are doing their homework? Are they involved in extra curricular activities? Do they help around the house? Hang out with real life friends? If the answer to all these questions is yes and their free time consists of an hour or two a day I wouldn't worry about it too much (unless, of course they're going to inappropriate/illegal sites). If, OTH, they are sitting in front of their devices from 3pm til midnight then, yes, it's time to make some changes. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Tue, 02-11-2014 - 1:44pm

I'm calling SPAM on this one. Okay, folks, run out and buy qustodio!

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Tue, 02-11-2014 - 2:13pm

I reported it yesterday.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2000
Tue, 02-11-2014 - 4:08pm
That was my initial reaction, too. But then she went on about the whole kids spending too much time on the computer and others were responding so I jumped on the bandwagon. Plus it's been so dead here at least it was a post!
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Tue, 02-11-2014 - 9:27pm
At least 80% of the new posts are never followed up by the OP, so we're always just talking to ourselves. But then, as Pam said, at least we got a little excitement! And we've got people posting links to their websites, hawking ponzi schemes, and selling crap EVERYWHERE, and IV doesn't do anything. So I'm guessing SPAM ranks next to toe lint on their priority list.
Avatar for jamblessedthree
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2001
Wed, 02-12-2014 - 6:03am
I've not heard of that before but know that you are the ultimate decision maker when it comes to childrens' time on the computer. Why wouldn't you talk to them, Express your concerns, Agree on a schedule, etc.