Connection is an incredible thing, and in our modern world we have more of it than ever before. Its incredible to think that just 20 years ago, Google had only just been founded, Facebook and YouTube were still just ideas, and the smartphones we cant live without today didnt even exist.

Theres no doubt that this connection has come with incredible blessings and advantages (homeschool families especially know how great a resource for learning the internet can be!) But its also brought tremendous challenges and damage. Consider the following statistics:

  • 53% of kids in the US today have a smartphone by the age of 11 (Common Sense Media)
  • Kids between the ages of 5-8 spend over 3 hrs/day on a screen (Common Sense Media)
  • 82% of parents say they are concerned about their kidsscreen time (Parents Together Action)
  • Reports of child online exploitation have risen dramatically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic (WSJ)
  • Numerous recent studies suggest strong correlation between social media usage, screen time, and increased risk of depression in adolescents (ABC News)

This is just the tip of the iceberg as a growing body of research emerges, raising alarm among parents and health experts. For parents who are working hard to protect and equip their kids, dealing with technology can often feel like all or nothing. 

More than ever, homeschool parents are grappling with the realities of our digital age and how to safely raise kids in a screen saturated world. What do parents need to know about internet safety today? What are the best ways to help families develop good web habits?  Weve compiled a list of the most important tips and ideas to help families protect kids online.

1) Set clear screen time limits

When it comes to setting limits on screen time” or computer time,” parents know it can be tough. Its especially true when homeschool families tend to rely more and more on screens for valuable learning resources. When it comes to limits, communication is key. Having clear, designated time limits for kids to use a computer, tablet, etc. is so important for creating consistency and boundaries.

Yet, its also important to pair screen time limits with other priorities so kids understand whats most important – and to show flexibility when those priorities change. If your child is using the computer to access quality content and learning materials, it may be appropriate to extend the time they use the computer. Additionally, setting limits for internet can vary based on age. This helps kids understand that screens are tools not toys, and time with them isnt automatic, but comes with age and maturity. 

2) In addition to limits, give screen time a home”

Place” has a powerful way of creating associations in the mind – especially the rapidly developing minds of our little ones. As a home educator, youve already seen this, as your kid starts to put the pieces together in their learning journey. Its an amazing thing to behold!

In recent years, researchers have uncovered incredible insights into how the mind forms and sustains new habits. Our minds tend to create loops or patterns in which something triggers an action to receive a reward. One way researchers suggest breaking a habit? Disrupt the loop. 

A very practical way to do this in your home is to rethink not just how your family does something (in this case spending time in front of a screen), but where. While time limits can seem arbitrary to kids, location is more tangible. Could the kitchen table be a no screen zone”? What about bedrooms? Just as important, what are your familys spaces where you can make screen time intentional and keep family involved? Instead of focusing only on how much screen time kids should have, consider first asking where. 

3) Invest in online parental controls

If you think about it, we have safe onramps for most things – safety seats for cars, training wheels for bikes, drivers ed for teens. But thats often not the case with the internet and technology. Parents need to have some control over internet use in the home and exercise it when necessary for the safety of their children. This is a critical part of helping guide and train your kids about what safety in the digital world means. Tools that allow parents to block some websites, filter information, and monitor their childs use when online are important to consider for any household. Think of parental controls as a sort of safe guardrail that supports your kids as you stay engaged with them on their journey learning about technology.

4) Make a screen time plan as a family

Being told no” is, well, no fun. We all know that. But how different does it feel when someone helps you understand the problem and invites you into building the solution? All of a sudden youre a collaborator, not a victim! Thats one of the things that makes homeschooling so amazing—kids get the chance to have ownership and investment in their education.

Kids need that same invitation when it comes to screen time. How much screen time do kids need? Well, what if you asked your kids? What would they say? Consider making it a homeschool project – grab a big olpiece of paper, markers, and make it a family activity to map out a plan to help everyone spend less time with screens and more time playing together. 

Setting shared goals can be a wonderful way to come together and make a memory while youre at it. Who knows, you might just be amazed at what your youngsters dream up!

For those with a little older kids, we love the resources that START (Stand Together And Rethink Technology) has developed for having collaborative conversations with your kids about how they engage with technology.

5)  Building intentionality by asking why”

One parenting tip youll often see is to make screen time a reward for doing other positive things like chores or homework. While that can absolutely be a positive and helpful approach, it can also make screen time the reward that helps to elevate its value in a kids mind. 

You know that moment when your kid comes running  to ask can I have the [insert device]?” or can I play [insert game]?” One helpful approach is to take that key moment and ask a simple question: why? Instead of only encountering rules, you can give your child a moment to consider what they want and why they really want it. 

In many cases, that moment may be a great opportunity for home educating parents to disconnect boredom from screen time. It also gives parents the opportunity to redirect the screen time focus from simple stimulation to something educational. The subtle message over time: screens are places we go to learn not tune out. 


COSMO Technologies is a family tech company founded by former homeschoolers that designs and manufactures innovative solutions that help keep kids safe and families connected in our digital age. This holiday season, COSMO is partnering with IAHE to support home education! Any purchase made in the state of Indiana in November and December through COSMO’s website will generate an 8% donation back to IAHE. COSMO’s best-selling JrTrack 2 Kids Smartwatch and parent app are a great safe alternative to cell phones helping parents and kids stay connected without compromise. The watch sells for $60, plus flexible monthly plan options.