Digitally Grounded: Discipline in a Technological Era

Mom: “Go to your room!”

Kid: “Yes, please!”

‘Go to your room’ was a phrase that used to instill in a child a sense of dread, upset and most importantly regret over their misbehavior. However, with the advent of cell phones, iPads, Gameboys, laptops, Kindles and other portable technological devices, to kids ‘going to your room’ sounds like a really fun idea.

Parents are now having a crisis of discipline because when they try to set-up consequences for bad behavior, they cannot find ways that work. Parents tell their child they are grounded, but then kids actually welcome this punishment because staying at home all weekend sounds like a good option. Kids can actually be more social at home–on Facebook and chat, than if they go out with a few friends. In an extremely irritating way, grounding is now actually not discouraging bad behavior, but encouraging social isolation and screen obsession for young people.

How can parents address this problem? I think we have to begin conversations about digital grounding.

What is Digital Grounding?

Digital Grounding is when parents take away electronic devices either completely or partially from their children. This can range from banning Facebook for a week to taking away a cell phone for social use or even no TV or video games for two weeks.

How Can Parents Digitally Ground?

There is no one way to do this and I am not a proponent of digital grounding for all families. I think it can be useful when the ‘crime’ has to do with technology. For example, if a teenager visits websites that are not allowed or sneaks online after hours, then taking away the internet is a fitting consequence. The point of digital grounding is to teach kids to feel remorse about bad behavior, not to make them miserable.

What is Good About Digitally Grounding?

With regular grounding parents are unknowingly pushing their kids to be more socially isolated and connected to their devices. Typically “You’re grounded!” means a child has to stay home and not see friends for a few days or weeks. Technology is making our children already more socially illiterate and having the consequence of devaluing in person relationships. Digital grounding actually means that kids have to build offline relationships and takes a break from their technology.

We have to think about how consequences for teenagers needs to change and how parents should make sure their discipline not only discourages kids to misbehave or break rules again, but also encourages general life behavior we support.

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