7 Ways to Set Media Boundaries for Teens

At House of Hope, one of the first things we do when a teen arrives at one of our residential facilities is to request that all devices be turned over to our staff.

Why?

Because media has a profound impact on the mindset of a teenager.

On average, teens use technology for a mind-boggling 9 hours each day. That means media influences teenagers more than parents, schools, and churches. And not for the better.

High use of technology by teens is linked to higher instances of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and rebelling against authority, to name a few. So limiting its use is not optional—but essential to raising good teens.

Still, parents have all struggled to figure out how to do this. That’s why we’ve put together these 7 Ways to Set Media Boundaries for Teens.

1. Hold Off on Providing Devices

Devices have become so prevalent today that many parents are serving technology to their children as young as age 2! 

While most parents issue a cell phone to their children at some point for the purpose of communication, smartphones serve up much more than the ability to contact Mom and Dad. There are endless temptations and opportunities to connect with others, as well, and cell phone use requires limits and boundaries to prevent the damaging effects of exposure to today’s media.

Many parents wait until a child is 16 years old and driving to allow a cell phone. Others may consider providing a phone upon entry into high school, depending on the situation. The longer you can hold off on providing devices, the better. The risks are real, and the potential harm is tremendous.

When a teen is on their phone, they’re doing less of other activities like sports, reading, homework, or connecting with family and friends in person.

Our advice?

Hold off as long as you can on offering your teens devices. Once you do, set time limits (there are apps that do this that you control from your own phone) and establish boundaries. 

And if your kiddo is complaining about what they aren’t allowed to have or do, remember, it’s ok to say no—YOU are the parent!

2. Limit the Use of Devices to a Common Area

With all the dangers the internet presents, monitoring its use is wise parenting.

One way to ensure you know what is happening with your teens online is to limit the use of devices to a common area like the kitchen or living room. There is an element of accountability present when anyone can see your activity at any time. 

You can also implement time limits on devices (i.e., We all turn our devices into the media basket in the kitchen by 9:00 p.m.—including parents!)

3. Install a Filter on Your Wi-Fi

It would be great to assume that everything on the internet is safe or that our children will always make perfect choices in this area—but we all know better.

It is essential to “watch over the affairs of [your] household” (Proverbs 31:27), and one of the ways to do this is by taking the time to install a filter on your wi-fi system. Filters like Gryphon keep pornography and other content out of every device. It also allows you to monitor what each device views through an app on your phone. You can also implement time limits and cut-off times in the evening for internet use.

4. Monitor What Your Teen is Looking At

Once a filter has been installed, it can be tempting to believe everything is covered. But your job is not done. It is critical that you continually monitor what your teen is viewing.

Here are some practical ways to do this:

  • Use the parental controls on the television and streaming services
  • Use a free service like Plugged In to assess the content of movies, TV, and video games before your teen is exposed.
  • Use a whole-house internet filter as mentioned above.
  • Conduct random phone/computer checks. As a parent, you can walk into your teen’s room and ask to see what they’re viewing at any time—even when there are intense objections.

Beyond media, be sure to also pay attention to books your teens are reading, their school curriculum, and the company they keep. “Bad company corrupts good character” is the warning found in 1 Corinthians 15:33. We can define “company” as anyone your teen spends time with—even digitally.

5. Monitor What Your Teen is Listening To

One mom we know had done all the right things. She had taught her kids good morals, taken them to church, and guarded what they watched and read. But at one point, the music her kids listened to had slipped through the cracks.

The result?

A happy kid who had turned into an angry and depressed teenager. After months of despair and frustration, she and her husband finally discovered that their son had been listening to music with angry undertones. Once this media was eliminated from his life, and after working to fill him back up with good thoughts and ideas, he returned to his usual self.

Music is not harmless.

It’s so true, it’s worth repeating. Music is not harmless.

Monitor what your teen is listening to. And, yes, you can put restrictions on it. For example, “In this house, we don’t listen to music with bad language.”

You can track what your teen listens to through your family’s shared music streaming service and also set limits for ratings like language. You can also make random checks when you see or hear your teen listening to music. Don’t let their reaction hinder you from doing what’s right. It’s too important!

6. Limit Social Media Use

A recent study showed that kids and teens who use social media for three or more hours per day are at a higher risk for mental illness. Those are serious consequences!

Today, teens spend far more time watching TikTok and YouTube videos than television programs. So setting media boundaries and limiting social media use for teens is more important now than ever. 

Consider setting a boundary regarding social media use in your home that includes the following parameters:

  • Social media accounts are used to view posts but not to post personal content.
  • Have a conversation about appropriate interactions online and staying away from interacting with strangers
  • Encourage your teen to refrain from critical or abusive comments, which are bullying
  • Limit social media viewing to one hour per day.
  • Follow your teen’s social media accounts to ensure adherence to your guidelines.

Your teen’s emotional health and well-being are far more important than whether they’ve seen the latest posts on Instagram.

7. Ask Questions

Above all, communicate with your teens about what they are listening to and looking at. Ask questions.

And expect answers!

  • “What are you listening to?”
  • “What are you looking at?”
  • “Are you making wise choices online?”

While your questions may seem to pry and may even elicit a frustrated response, deep down, your teen appreciates that you care enough to ask and get involved. 

We hope these tips have helped you feel more confident setting media boundaries for your teens. It may take some getting used to—for everyone—but you will forever be grateful you took the time to protect your teens from the adverse effects of media.

5 Patriotic Sites to Visit With Your Teen

Summer is here! Warm weather, pool parties, barbecues and more. Even better? Planning that much-needed summer vacation. You can impart a sense of belonging and patriotism in your teen all while having a blast on a family vacation!  We’re sharing 5 patriotic sites you can visit with your teen this summer, and we’ve included some travel tips from staff members

Read More »

10 Ways to Honor Memorial Day

Don’t let this Memorial Day be only about having a day off of work and enjoying a cookout. Those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can be free deserve our honor, respect and a special time of remembrance. Take some time to focus on the true meaning of the day with these 10 ways to honor Memorial Day. 1.

Read More »

Dear Mom of Teens…. A Note of Encouragement

Dear Mom of Teens, Much has happened since the day you first brought your little one home from the hospital. What once seemed so overwhelming—nighttime feedings, endless diaper changes, teething and all the unknown—may now seem like child’s play in the face of raising a teen. Once referred to as ‘Mommy’ in a high-pitched voice, you’re now ‘Mom’ and not

Read More »

Welcome to the Place Where Hope Grows 

Hope is in full bloom at House of Hope!   As part of our residential program, House of Hope has implemented a new life-skills training component into the spiritual and practical elements of our healing process. Research has found that the act of gardening can be a powerful tool in the healing process of those dealing with trauma. Along with providing

Read More »

10 Ways Hugs Can Transform Your Teen (and You!) for the Better

She had been angry and violent, and no one could figure out how to reach her. When she came to House of Hope as a hurting and troubled teen, Cheryl didn’t want to comply with any rules and continuously fought with her housemates, even becoming violent. The house staff, who are trained to handle challenging teens, had tried everything, but

Read More »

5 Ways to Protect Your Teen from the Depression Epidemic

It’s too serious to ignore. The rate of teen depression has reached record-breaking heights, with a whopping 59% increase between 2007 and 2017 alone. And that was before the detrimental effects of the COVID lockdowns, which impacted teens significantly more than any other group. Today, almost 6 in 10 teen girls (nearly 60%) feel a persistent feeling of sadness or

Read More »