Parenting: Controlling Computer Time

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Dear Dr. Darcy:

I don’t know what to do about my 15-year old daughter. Her priorities are all wrong. She’s girl crazy (she’s been out since she was 13 and I’m very supportive, though I wish she’d focus a little more on her studies and less on the girls) and she’s on her computer day and night. We just got first marking period grades and they were nothing to brag about. I’ve tried taking her computer away but she just uses her phone. What’s a mother to do?!

ANSWER

Let me start by commending you on your ability to support your gay daughter.  It’s not to be minimized. The issues you have now are nothing compared to what they would be were you a homophobe.  You’ve made a very wise decision.

You say that her grades are nothing to brag about. Let’s take it a step further: I want you to get crystal clear about what grades you expect from her. All A’s & B’s? Are C’s acceptable? If so, how many? Define your expectations and then communicate them to your daughter. Avoid vague language. This is not an essay question that requires tons of words.  It’s black and white. Let her know in measurable terms what you expect from her. It will be a good exercise for you as well.

Once you’re clear on what you want her grades to be, I want you to put some parameters on her computer and phone time – but I don’t want you to do it the way you did in the past. Identify things that she can do (chores, etc.) to earn time on her computer every day. She shouldn’t have free rein on the computer – and she absolutely should have household responsibilities.  Her responsibilities should be Monday-Friday, every day. It’s easier for kids to do something every day than sporadically or on alternate days of the week.  Keep chores short. They should take no longer than 15 minutes. You want to set her up for success – not failure. There is software that can assist with this linked to here.

Here’s how you’re going to tie it into her computer/phone time: Let’s presume you work and get home at 6:00 p.m. Her chores need to be done by the time you walk in the house. Once you confirm that the chores were completed, she gets X number of hours of her phone and computer. When those hours are up, she hands you her phone and charger (they get charged in your room at night), her laptop and charger (this too sleeps with you) and if she’s using a PC, she gives you her keyboard. The next morning she gets all 3 back. If she’s paranoid about you snooping through her stuff, have her password protect everything.

The takeaway is this: You can’t try something once and give up on it if it fails. You keep trying until it works. And you need to be creative about finding solutions. Sometimes you’ve got a good solution that needs a modified twist. That’s what I did here for you. Now go tell that kid of yours what you expect from her grades this marking period. And enjoy her. You’re doing a lot right.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Straight.