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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Putting Boundaries on the Digital World

Full length of young men and women holding cellphone

The following is a terrific guest post from Renee Robinson. She is a mother who puts boundaries on some of the electronics her sons request. Her kids still enjoy the digital world, but it’s a servant, not a master. While I write blogs for educators and coaches, I recognize many of you are parents, too. Enjoy the letter she wrote to her boys: “Why I Say No to Electronics.”

“Dear Boys,

Do you remember the day we went to the drugstore and the lady said, ‘Wow, you are the first kids I’ve seen all day with nothing in your hands.’ Remember how she marveled at how you didn’t need an electronic device to carry through the store? I know how her words made you feel. I know how it reminded you that you are different because your mom limits your electronic usage. I know it was yet another reminder.

The same reminder you receive when we are out to eat and you notice all the kids playing their phones and iPads instead of talking to their parents. I know it was a reminder of all the sporting events where you feel you are the only kids whose parents are making them cheer on their siblings rather than burying themselves in a phone. I know it was another reminder to you that you feel different in this electronic age we live in.

Well, boys, it’s not you. It’s me. Me being selfish, maybe. You see, I can’t bear to miss a moment with you. Let me explain.

I want to talk to you when we are out to eat. I want to listen to your questions. I want to have training opportunities. I want to allow space for conversation that can take us deeper. And if you are always distracted with electronics, well… I might miss those moments.

I could give you all the statistics about how damaging it is to your development, your attention span, your ability to learn. While all of those are valid reasons to keep electronics away, that is not my primary reason why I say no to you so much. It’s more than that. Much more. I need you to understand this.

When we are together, I want all of you. The fullness of you. I want to experience you. Truly experience you. And I can’t do that with you when there is an electronic device between us. You see, it acts as a barrier. I want to see what brings life to those eyes. I want to watch the wonder and magic dance across your face as you discover the wonders of this world. I want to watch you as you figure things out. I want to watch you process life, develop your thoughts. I want to know you. I want to know your passions. I want to watch you as you discover your God-given talents and gifts. And when you hide behind a screen, I miss out on all of that. And my time with you….well, it will be over in the blink of an eye.

I want to guide you into an understanding of life and who you are. Boys, kids today are starved for attention, true connection and relationship. I don’t want you to feel starved. That is why I say no. I know that feeding the desire to play in your device is like giving you candy. It satisfies for a moment but provides no long-term nutrition. It does more harm than good.

I don’t want to look back when I’m out of the trenches of child training and regret a second I had with you. I don’t want to merely survive. I want to thrive in this life with you. We are in it together. We’re a family. Yes, when we are waiting at a doctor’s office for an hour, it would be easier to quiet you with my phone. But if I did that, I fear I’d send you a message that says I’d rather hush you than hear those precious words falling from your lips.

I can’t bear the thought of allowing you to miss out on the wonders and mysteries of this world. When you are transfixed on a screen, the beauty of this world will be lost to you. In every moment beauty is waiting to be discovered. I don’t want you to miss it.

I want you to be comfortable with yourself. I want you to not feel a constant need to be entertained and distracted. If you stay behind a screen, you never have to experience just being you, alone with your thoughts. I want you to learn to think, to ponder life, make discoveries, to create. You have been gifted by God in unique ways. I want those to bloom. They can’t bloom in the glow of a screen. They need life, real life, to bring them to light.

I want you to be confident in who you are. I want you to be able to look people in the eyes and speak life into them. If I allow you to live behind a screen, you get little practice relating eye to eye. To truly know someone, you have to look into their eyes. It’s a window into their heart. You see what can’t be seen in cyberspace.

When I say no to devices, I’m giving you a gift. And I’m giving me a gift. It’s a gift of relationship. True human connection. It’s precious and a treasure. And you mean so much to me that I don’t want to miss a second of it.

I love how God created your mind. I love to hear the way you think and process life. I love to see what makes you laugh. I love to watch those eyes widen when a new discovery is made. And when your head is behind a screen, I miss all of that. And so do you.

In this life, we have few cheerleaders. In this family, we will cheer each other on. I know it is boring to sit at swim lessons and watch your brother learn to swim. I know it is boring to sit through a 2 hour baseball practice. And in all honesty, it would be easy for me to give you the iPad and keep you quiet and occupied. But we all lose out when we do that. You will miss out on watching your brother’s new accomplishments. You will deprive him of the joy of his moment to shine for you. You will miss out on what it means to encourage each other.

I want you to grow up knowing the world doesn’t revolve around you (one day, your wife will thank me). I want you to learn to give selflessly of yourself….to give away your time, your talents, your treasures. If I distract you with electronics when you should be cheering for your brother, well, I’m simply telling you that your happiness is more important than giving your time to someone other than yourself.

This world needs more selflessness. This world needs more connection. This world needs more love. We can’t learn these behind a screen.

I want to raise sons that know how to look deeply into the eyes of the ones they love. I want my future daughters in law to know what it’s like to have a husband that looks deeply into her eyes because he knows the value of human relationships and the treasure of love. And that is best communicated eye to eye.

I want to watch your face illuminated by the majesty of life – not the glow of a screen. I want all of you. Because I only have you for a short while. When you pack up and leave for college, I want to look back with no regrets over the time I spent with you. I want to look back and remember how your eyes sparkled when we talked. I want to look back and remember how I actually knew those little quirky details of your life because we had time enough to be bored together.

It’s ok to be bored. We can be bored together. And we can discover new things together. I love you. I love you too much to quiet you with an iPhone or an iPad or a 3DS. And I can’t even apologize because I’m really not sorry. I’m doing this so that I won’t be sorry one day.

With all my love, Mom”


What a powerful letter. What are your thoughts?


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  1. Sherri Sewald-Platt on August 13, 2014 at 8:10 am

    My thoughts….this mother is doing her boys a huge disservice. She is not teaching them the art of balance. She is not teaching them when it is appropriate and when it’s not. She not teaching them time management and how to manage distractions. What will happen when they are in their own and she is not there to say no? It’s no difference than 20 years ago the moms that said no to tv. There children go to friends houses or even off to college and they can’t pull themselves away because it’s new and the forbidden.

    • charlene.fonseca on August 13, 2014 at 9:48 am

      You have some really good input here which I had not considered upon first reading. As I think about it, though, their personal distractions and time frames could be vastly different from the expected norm, so perhaps they are handled and we can’t see it. I like what you said though, your point completely valid, as building these skills should never be put off.

    • Renee Robinson on August 13, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Hi Sherri,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We actually do teach balance and limits. We allow them 30 minutes a day on the weekends. They are in charge of setting a timer so they can monitor their own time. They have freedom to choose their screen activity and at what point they want to use it. My 8 year old is shocked to see how he loses himself in 30 minutes. Without guidance he wouldn’t realize how the time goes. We help him to see that it takes managing in order to navigate effectively. I see your point and appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  2. Jackie Anderson on August 13, 2014 at 10:50 am

    The heart of this mom is precious. I would like to see the letter to the parents who use their screens to train their children by example, that there is always something more important than them. Taking phone calls at the dinner table or, hmm do you even eat dinner together at home? Parents who take their children to every new movie but visit the library rarely. Take their children out to eat or even give them money (to make life easier on themselves) and don’t teach them to cook and clean up after themselves. To plan ahead and not visit a store every day.
    The issue is stewardship of what we have been given. How we live as parents sets an example. Teaching our children the value of their life of purpose happens on purpose. Teaching intentionally. Then they will learn how to use all these things to benefit themselves to assist others.
    I printed off copies for my 4 grown boys and one for the daughter in law who has a fiance who knows how to be with people, to listen, to really love even as he teaches his 5th graders. Thanks for sharing.
    Watching for that next letter to the parents. Is there a child who can write it?

    • Renee Robinson on August 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Jackie, thank you for your words. On my blog I shared a letter to husbands from wives regarding putting down the screen with a promise for letters additional letters to the parents and one to wives.

  3. Tim Kist on August 16, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Renee, what a terrific post. When our boys started grade 1 my wife suggested limits on TV and electronic games. Nothing from Monday to Thursday. Friday to Sunday they got an hour of each per day. Because they were in sports and had friends on our street they were always busy. They didn’t miss any electronics during the week as they had homework and fun playing other games (yes, board games) and staying generally busy. We always received compliments from people on how well behaved the boys were and how they could talk to folks. This continues today and we are so proud. Now that they are both in college, playing a varsity sport via scholarship and on dean’s honor role, they have learned their own limits. Busy with classes, homework, and training and playing football keeps them too busy to be glued to electronics. They know their priorities and set them on their own. Success today is because of the groundwork that was laid with my wife’s first suggestion about limits and balance. It was never meant to be a punishment and it was never taken as such, even when they spoke to classmates about what others were able to do. I have coached youngsters in different sports and it is astounding what some of them do with their time – playing video games online all night and sleeping until 4 the next afternoon. I am certainly not “holier than thou”, and we made exceptions for certain TV events (watching their favorite team in the Stanley Cup playoffs for example) and that ended up being another way they learned balance. As parents, the best thing we can give our kids is strong roots and wings. Your article on balance fits this theme nicely. Well done!

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Putting Boundaries on the Digital World