Protect Your Kids young girl on computer alone
Protect Your Kids 5 minute read

4 Reasons Parents Should Block the Internet at Certain Times of Day

Last Updated: February 29, 2024

For many parents, the amount of time a child spends online is not their primary concern about technology. Parents are often most concerned about the content their child consumes online—is the information false or reliable, harmful, or helpful?

But making clear guidelines about the times of day your child is online can radically change the way they use the Internet.

1. Time spent online often interferes with family time and school work.

Since 2007, there has been a sharp drop-off in the amount of face-to-face time families spend together in Internet-connected households. In a recent study by Orange, 32% of parents said that technology separates members of their family. Another study among a large sample of adolescents indicated that, in general, the Internet does not improve teens’ relationships with their parents, and the Internet consumes time they might have spent with their families.

Additionally, the Orange study also found that 49% of tweens and teens say their parents complain about technology because it interferes with homework getting done.

In trying to prevent these conflicts, parents can limit the specific times of day online when family time or non-Internet-related homework is planned. Do you like to have a game night with your kids once a week? Prevent them from getting distracted online at those times. Do you want your kids to focus on getting homework done right after school? Block the Internet on their computer so Facebook and Twitter don’t become a distraction.

2. Allowing the Internet only at certain times encourages disciplined Internet use.

Teens today spend an average of 30 hours a week in front of a screen. Much of this is time spent online: 63% of teens get online every day, and many do this multiple times a day.

The compulsion to be always online has been a growing problem among teens and adults alike. Some speak of “Internet addiction,” the need for “digital detox,” or the need for families to “unplug.” The Orange study found that 56% of tweens and teens have personally made a deliberate choice to disconnect from technology so they could have a break from it. Parents also have noticed the trend in their homes: 58% of parents say they have been trying to teach their children how to use technology without getting addicted to it.

By having set times when Internet use is allowed, parents can train their children and teens to spend their online hours wisely. If kids know they have a two hour window in the evening to be online, they will limit the amount of time they spend doing frivolous or unproductive activities.

3. Blocking specific times of day reduces online temptations.

People often say, do, and see things online they wouldn’t in “the real world.” People often feel freer to explore places they wouldn’t explore when they believe nobody is watching them. Dr. John Suller says this issue is so pervasive it actually has a name: the online disinhibition effect.

These online temptations come in many forms, but they fall under two general categories: content and conversation.

  • Content: Kids and teens can easily access harmful or inappropriate information and images online. Pornography, sites about anorexia and bulimia, and sites with profane humor—all of these can be more tempting to access when no one is awake or around to see them.
  • Conversation: Kids and teens are also more likely to engage in unwise conversations online in the wee hours of the morning when no one is around and they aren’t thinking straight. They might say something slanderous to someone they know (cyberbullying), chat with an online stranger who could be a predator, or send a sexually provocative selfie to someone they know (sexting).

It is wise for parents to block the Internet during times of day when these activities would be the most tempting (after bedtime, times when parents are gone from the house, etc.).

4. Blocking specific times of day helps to establish parental authority.

In many homes, parents lay down rules about Internet use. But in numerous surveys, when both parents and teens are asked about those rules, major discrepancies exist. One large-scale study of families found that while parents were able to articulate the rules, children either forgot them or claimed the rules were negotiable. In families where teens are the technical experts in the home, studies have shown that these adolescents tend to monopolize the computer and restrict its use by other family members.

Clear and consistent guidelines about when the Internet should and should not be used offers parents a perfect opportunity to exert their authority in a beneficial way. Some studies have shown that when parents are more authoritative when it comes to the Internet, teens spend less time online, are less likely to visit inappropriate websites, and are less likely to disclose inappropriate information online.

Blocking Times of Day the Right Way

1. Use Technology to Help

Use software to make blocking specific times of day easy.

2. Be Authoritative

Parenting styles tends to fall into three categories: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative.

  • Authoritarian – These parents place a high level of demands on their children, very little autonomy, accompanied by a low level of warmth.
  • Permissive — These parents tend to place lower demands on their children, give a lot of autonomy, expecting kids to self-regulate.
  • Authoritative – These parents have a high level of demands on their children, but combine it with a high level of warmth and allow more autonomy.

Authoritative parents are the most likely to help kids develop strong character. When setting time restrictions on Internet use, it is important to set time times that are reasonable and allow your child to enjoy the Internet and all its benefits.

3. Model It

After publishing The Family and Technology Study, the think-tank at Orange stated, “While it is certainly healthy to think through standards and limits, we have to make sure that there aren’t double standards. Ultimately, we should decide what type of relationship we want our kids to have with technology, and then we should do it.”

This is good advice. If you set time restrictions for your children, consider doing it for yourself as well. They don’t have to be the same restrictions, but it is important to communicate to your child that they aren’t being targeted because they are young.

4. Teach Character, Not Just Limits

Blocking times when your kids can get online without creating an alternative only creates a void. Do you want to have more family time? Plan it. Do you want your kids to get outside more or take up a hobby? Plan times to take them outside or give them the resources to develop their skills and interests.

Don’t just cut them off from the Internet. Teach them about the importance of face-to-face relationships and encourage them to make connections.

Picture credit: wjlonien

  1. Well… this is an awful way to build good relations with a teen and will pretty much ruin your relations and only prompt them to fight back and use internet when they shouldn’t. My mom tried this but my time on the internet had taught me to code and it didn’t take me long to get rid of this awful software from my phone and pc. As an revenge for my moms GREAT idea I did the same to her and cut off her connection in the evenings.

    Any moms here, dont do this to your teens….

  2. Hi Luke, I love the article. I especially agree with you that kids shouldn’t be cut off from the Internet. At the same time, it is good to set limits and teach them how to stay safe online. Keep up the good work!

  3. Paul

    Luke,

    Regarding Dave’s comment, are there any plans to roll out the Blocked Times feature for the iPhone app? This is a highly desirable feature. It’s much easier to sneak onto an iPhone than a computer in the middle of the night.

    What’s the best way to make a CE feature request?

    Thanks!

    • Plans? Yes. In the end we want all our services and features on all of our platforms. As for how far down the road this is (or if Apple will ultimately let us do it), I do not know.

  4. Dave

    Can you limit the time one spends on the internet with an iPhone? Or limit the time of day one uses it? Thanks.

    • There are no time restrictions yet for mobile devices.

    • ok seriously this is stupid, your kids arnt going to want to spend time with you if you do this they will get more annoyed and will be even more determined to use the internet, thereby going against your rules even if it gets them in trouble. sure for some families this might work but come on were teenagers we don’t just listen to what your sayng. your better to limit the time on social medias and games for 1-2 hours in afternoon depending on how busy your child is so they have time to relax after school and still enough time to do their homework (they need internet for homework) if your trying to get your kids completely technology free well goodluck on that as its all around them, even if they don’t have their own devices I’m sure plenty of their friends do. this is our generation now and you can’t exactly stop it. again not saying they should have internet 24/7 but let them learn from their mistakes.

  5. Marelize

    For me the biggest challenge lies in my own (mis)use of the pc and internet! And then these smartphones, they all have internet, so basically you’ll have to regulate cellphones too?

    • Absolutely. That’s why we created Internet safety software for PCs and smartphones. These tools have really helped people to develop good habits.

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