Is social media causing arguments in your home? Firstly, let’s acknowledge that it’s not realistic to opt out of technology entirely.

The web and digital devices are now thoroughly integrated into modern life. And to be honest I love using Facebook as a means for keeping in touch with my family overseas. I was recently ‘found’ on Facebook by old school friends that I haven’t seen for 25 years, words cannot describe the uplifting feeling that I had at being reconnected with them.

However, the digital world can be all consuming for us, and our children, especially teens. Here are some tips to help with managing time spent on social media:

1) Set time limits for digital usage

The Internet is open 24/7, and without being mindful of our web usage, it’s easy to get sucked in for hours. It can become addictive for our teens and us. There will always be emails to reply to, messages to check, and websites to visit because the Internet is so vast, with millions of people connected at any one time.

It is important to remember that we are in control of it and not let it control our family time. Try to only check your email twice a day maximum, unless your work is based entirely on email of course! Don’t click any social media sites until you have completed other important tasks for the day. Stop using the Internet after 10pm each day (it disturbs sleep patterns if used before bed time). Setting such boundaries will help you regain control over your time and family life. As parents, we have a huge influence on our kids. Often we feel this isn’t true because it appears that they never listen or do what they are told.

Don’t be fooled, they are watching, and often subconsciously, copying our behaviour. There’s no point shouting at them to turn off their digital gadgets, if we are staring at a screen. It is more powerful to teach by example.

2) Get a family life outside

Because there’s so much activity online, teenagers can often feel that being online is their life. It is our job as parents to remind our kids that the Internet is a ‘tool’ to enhance our lives with easy access to music, recipes, teachings etc, but it is not our life. It is a network that links people together. It facilitates connection on a surface level. It can never give us the things we enjoy in real life: a warm hug; a tasty hot chocolate or the smell of freshly cut grass.

Family life is fun and rewarding, when built on clear, caring communication. As your children mature it is important to make time to connect with them on a personal level, every day. Organise a walk along the beach and chat with older teens, go have an ice-cream or coffee together, play family football at the park with younger ones.  If you have to stay indoors start a game of cards and invite them to join you rather than playing digital games individually.  Every reward in life requires effort and if we don’t put effort into our family habits now, we will not reap the rewards later.

3) Opt out of tools that don’t serve you

With so many social networks and messaging apps ie: Facebook; Whatsapp; Snapchat; Instagram and Twitter it often feels like we’ve been taken over by them. We have witnessed the change from the days of the plain old calculator, but to our teens, all this technology is normal and they can’t understand why we think it is disruptive because they have never known anything else. At your next family meeting, why not get each member to think consciously about all of the social tools they use, and agree to drop the ones that don’t add value to your family life.

A few questions: Do you feel frustrated by the amount of time you spend in front of the computer or on your phone? Why? What exactly is it that frustrates you?

Do you feel even more frustrated by the amount of time your kids spend in front of the computer or on their phone? Why? What exactly is it that frustrates you? Share your answers with each family member.

4) Get rid of notifications and alerts

If you don’t know what push notifications are, great! Keep it that way. They are pop-up messages that an app displays on your home screen to alert you of something, usually an update. Many apps today have push notifications. Social media apps in particular use push notifications to prompt you whenever there is a new message.

I find push notifications really annoying. I feel that this software crosses the line from enabling to distracting. The constant beeping notifies me of every single thing, essentially creating a false urgency to read and respond immediately. I’m then led down a track of clicking the alert and following through with the next step, which is to read and respond, which then creates a feedback loop to keep checking for updates. The worst thing is that these updates can be for software you don’t even use often, or for social media apps, every few minutes, whenever someone messages you.

Before you know it, your life becomes a sum of reactionary responses to alerts on your phone or computer while your time is at the mercy of the next person who decides to contact you. I watched my daughter ‘studying’ in vain one evening, so distracted by the constant pinging of her phone every few minutes that her homework took twice as long to do, as it should have. We now have an agreement (notice the word agreement, not order) that she leaves her phone elsewhere whilst completing tasks for school and is free to reply to everyone after dinner. If you have an app with alerts that can’t be turned off, then remember you have the choice to uninstall it.

5) Declutter your computer and mobile

Friends used to comment on the mess of my computer ‘home page’ because it was so full of saved documents that I planned to read sometime in the future. I had no filing system and I found the whole mess overwhelming.  In the same way that physical clutter can make it difficult to work, digital clutter also makes it hard to get things done. Why not set aside some time today and tidy up your digital files, get your teens to do the same.  You will all feel lighter. Some things to start with:

Bookmarks: Remove bookmarks you have no use for. Group similar bookmarks into topical folders.

Desktop icons: Cut down on desktop icons.

Software, Apps: Uninstall software/apps you don’t use anymore and likely won’t be using. There’s no need to pack your devices with unwanted apps. If you really need them next time, you can always install them again.

Digital documents: Organise your files, folders, and delete the stuff you have no use for anymore. Create a classification system such that it’s easy to find your digital documents.

Email: If you don’t already use folders/labels to organise your emails, you should!

6) Unsubscribe from stuff you don’t need

The web has made it easy for us to subscribe to any site we like, and there is usually a free special offer that we can’t resist. Before you know it, you are getting dozens of emails each week that you no longer have much interest in. You know you should unsubscribe or unfollow but fear of missing out on something amazing keeps you locked in. It’s time to set yourself free. If you haven’t used their services by now then you are unlikely to do so this month or this year. Remember, you have a choice. You decide whom you let into your inbox. Encourage your teen to do the same.

7) Meet new people

Last but not least, get out and meet new people. Even though we can meet lots of people online, we should remember that digital tools are there to facilitate a get together not to replace physical meet ups. I use the Internet to invite people to my monthly Women Self Empowerment Group and it is a fantastic way for me to reach out to those in need of my services. However, I always arrange to meet them in person so we can connect at a deeper level. I encourage you to get out and meet people, face to face, get involved with your community. You’ll find it fun and rewarding. Plus you will be setting a wonderful example for your children.

Can you relate to this article? Does social media rule your life? Please share in the comments below.

  • Unsubscribing from emails you no longer want is a big one.


  • yes i have recently done a big purge from my emails and it was refreshing!


  • I definitely agree with what you have said Anne.


  • I feel like social media now rules everyone’s life. My husband claims he is not on social media, but has a Linked In account. So, he is often on that of an evening. My son is on FB and Instagram and is always on something. After spending the day on the computer working, I most nights have to review my FB and Instagram accounts, more for work coverage. This is painful and not an enjoyable thing for me. It takes away from any interest I have for my personal use. What was life like before social media? Take me back, please.

    • You’re right, for those working all day, catching up with social media can be demanding and take up the whole evening when people should be relaxing.


  • So true !!


  • I really dislike social media – this is my one site where I ‘waste’ time – but often I learn things here, so it’s not really wasted. But the time I spend on this is quite sufficient in my busy day.

    • I agree, to be on one or two groups where you actually learn, contribute and get to know others in the community is fun and rewarding, but too many can be distracting and overwhelming.


  • I have desk-top computer which is in the living area where I can keep an eye on it. The youngsters are allowed to play certain free games that were set up on the computer when it bought it – brand new . Their parents instructions – they are not allowed on the internet. Turn your back to do something else for 10 seconds and the eldest one has changed to another item on YouTube. A young baby or toddler is a distraction that usually needs attention. 7 1/2 y.o. can’t be trusted. 4 y.o. often sits on my lap and plays a game which you make cakes on. It is a special treat, not an every time they come here event. It also depends of the weather and time of day. I basically have no yard for them to play in – front or back so I often take them to one of the playgrounds within easy walking distance.

    • You’re right – it is difficult to keep an eye on all kids, all the time. It sounds like you have a good handle on it. Having the computer in the main area of the house is a good idea so you can see what they are doing but you might want to consider putting it away for part of the day sometimes too. Kids that young are often easily distracted and won’t rush to switch it on if it’s not there. Keep up the good work. Anne


  • Thanks for these handy tips, I need to start enforcing a few ASAP.


  • Social media can really become overwhelming. We have to learn to use our time at the best, avoid following too many people and definitely check the amount of newsletters we subscribe to.

    • Yes, overload IS overwhelming! Our reptilian brain was designed to deal fully with one situation at a time : hunt or eat or sleep – we have made a cult out of something we should do naturally and have labelled it ‘mindfulness’. A useful tool and good reminder, but incredible that society has got to this stage. Anne

      • Absolutely.
        I also like to use the phone as less as possible for social media. I just use my laptop. It looks like this way I’ve got more power on how much time I actually spend on social media.


  • Moderation is the key to everything in life (except love).


  • Moderation is the key to everything in life.


  • Definitely can relate. My husband and I are having a hiatus from Facebook at the moment. We found we were always on our phones checking up on what everyone else was doing and not actually taking care of ourselves and family. We also found it an escape from the realities of our lives.

    • Thank you for being so honest Lori-Anne. Technology can become addictive without us realising it.
      I do a digital detox with my kids from 6 – 7.30pm and we use that time to make dinner together and chat (they are ages 16 & 17). Anne


  • Thanks for the article and the most important thing to do with technology is to model the right use to our children. It does have to be time limited and family time and other commitments and priorities come before technology time.

    • You are absolutely right! As parents we set the tone and are their role model.

      • We do set the tone and model and they watch us and take their cues from us. A big responsibility – but well worth it! :)


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