My 9-year-old son spends as much time as he can get away with using his iPad (in this case watching Youtube videos). His iPad is also required for school.

This evening, after giving him ample warning he needed to stop watching videos, I advised him if he continued I would confiscate his iPad for 1 week - which in hindsight was not a wise move. He continued watching videos, and I have confiscated the device, despite his - impressive as always - tantrum (I very seldom need to discipline him and when I do I follow through. Unfortunately, his interactions with his mother have taught him he can control the outcome using histrionics/drama - and this is beyond my control - but I need him to know that when I do discipline him histrionics/drama will not work).

If tomorrow I "soften up" and allow him limited use of the iPad (for use only in class - but as I am not always present I may not be able to enforce this behaviour), am I undermining my parental authority? (I am worried, he will see that as me "buying in" to his drama about being kicked out of school etc. etc.) If so, is there any way of handling this, other than enforcing what is probably a disproportionate punishment and consequence?

5 Answers 5


If tomorrow I "soften up" and allow him limited use of the IPAD (for use only in class...), am I undermining my parental authority?

No, it's my belief that you are strengthening it. You are modeling how adults behave when they realize they've made a mistake. As people under the authority of others (our bosses, our police, etc.), we hope for wisdom and benevolence, not authoritarianism. While mercy might be preferred, consequences which are reasonable are easier to accept (and respect) than those that are strictly punitive.

If you, say, got your license revoked for drunk driving, but were allowed to use your vehicle only to drive to and from your place of employment, how would you feel?

This is how I would handle it (and have done so in the past.)

X, I realized (last night/whenever) that I made a mistake in taking the iPad away for a week without allowing for school use. I'm sorry for any extra distress this might have caused you. You can take your tablet to school and use it for homework for (reasonable amount of time after school). However, you're not to watch videos on it during that time. If you do, you'll have further consequences (which you spell out.) Do you have any questions for me about any of this?

And then if he questions your judgement tell him we all make mistakes, but the important thing is that we do the right thing, etc.,


I would suggest that you ask the school how much of an issue it is that he not have his iPad for a week. They may say it is a problem, they may not. But either way, you have more of an "informed" basis for whether you decide to relent or not. It will also be less of a "softening" than of new information changing your decision "I spoke to your teacher and she said that she would prefer that you have your iPad at school, so I told her that I would make this exception. But only for school, you give it up when you get home." or "I spoke to your teacher and she said it would be all right for you to do without it for a week."

It's also good behavior modeling: you took his objections (however dramatically delivered) seriously, did your research and made an informed decision.


other than enforcing what is probably a disproportionate punishment and consequence

I don't think the consequences are disproportionate.

You warned your son that he needs to stop or he would have to go without his tablet for a week. He didn't stop. Now he has to do without it for a week.

A week isn't that long. Not watching videos for 7 days is not going to hurt him in in any way. And frankly, I don't think it will hurt him to not be able to use his tablet at school (I'd be very interested in what a nine-year-old is being taught at school that requires a tablet, but that's off topic). You could always tell the school that your son can't bring his tablet to school for a week. The school should have a protocol for such cases. I mean, what happens when a child breaks his/her tablet, or brings one with an exhausted battery? The teachers should be able to deal with that.

If tomorrow I "soften up" and allow him limited use of the iPad, am I undermining my parental authority?

I agree with anongoodnurse that you probably wouldn't undermine your authority. Explaining why you made a mistake will also make him see that admitting one made a mistake is not a sign of weakness.

Still, I don't think you made a mistake, and therefore I don't think you should admit to one.

for use only in class - but as I am not always present I may not be able to enforce this behaviour

This is the problem with you giving him the tablet for school use. If he's anything like my nine-year-olds, he won't be able to control himself and he'll use the tablet for fun when you're not there. Then he'll lie about it because he won't want to suffer further consequences.

To pick up on anongoodnurses example with the revoked driving license and you only being allowed to drive to work: Wouldn't you be tempted to make a quick detour to play some pool on your way back from work with your buddies, even if you weren't supposed to? And it's almost no detour at all, and nobody will be the wiser, and you can always say you were just there to pick up some groceries for dinner in the shop next door if your car does get spotted, and that's true, you do need to pick up groceries, and anyway, who gets hurt by that...

One big problem with tablet availability for kids is that they're just too interesting for the kids to reliably muster enough self-control to put them aside. It seems to me that learning this skill is very important, even more so if your son has access to a tablet during school hours. So suffering the consequences of not being able to stop when he's told to stop seems like a good thing here. Maybe next time you tell him to put it away, he'll put it away. Then maybe next time you tell him that he has forty minutes to play with it, and to set an alarm to remind himself, he'll do that. Then sooner or later he might start doing it without you having to remind him every step of the way.

  • Some school districts in the US are going all electronic for textbooks and assignments. If that is the case here, it is equivalent to a weeks suspension from school without school sanction. One of the issues with BYOD and schools.
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 3:07

I agree with the other answers. You're not undermining your parental authority. He lost his iPad in the short term and the drama and tantrum didn't bring it back immediately. Let him know that the most effective behaviour is calm acceptance of his punishment and that you will always try to be fair and rectify your mistakes, as he should his.

The only thing that I'd like to add to the other answers is that there are apps available which can limit iPad access. The one we use is called ScreenTime (I wouldn't recommend it if you have an older model of iPad). I'm not on their payroll or affiliated with them in any way, but I do (pay for and) use their app. It's useful because it tells me how much screen time my children have had every day and lets me set a minute limit on it. You create folders on the iPad, put specific apps in them and ScreenTime locks the folder (not the whole iPad). You can leave all the school apps (and any others) out of that folder. Only the really addictive games can go in the folder. That way, you can still let him access the iPad and even play some of his games on it but you also have some degree of control.


As already stated by others you can give it back to him and explain it's for school use only. Explain the restriction for general use applies, but you recognize he must use it for school and he can use it only for school. Stress that if he uses the Ipad for any non-school related activities he will be further punished. Clearly specify what punishments he may face, included extended length of time without Ipad use at home and/or timeout, if he attempt non school related use.

You probably don't need to apologize, depending on what you said to him. If you just said his use would be revoked for the week you can say as a clarification that his use for personal fun is still revoked, but he may use it for school. This feels like a clarification of a punishment, not a change of one, and thus doesn't need much of an explanation.

The key thing is to enforce your rules, and you can do that! The Ipad offers a number of parental tools to allow you to force your rules even if you aren't there in person. I recommend you remove youtube, or whatever other video viewing app he utilized, from the ipad for the week. You can set parental controls, as described here and restrict youtube and other apps from being installed that he likes. You can offer to remove those restrictions in a week, but until then even though he has his ipad he can't use it for non school work.

In addition I would also make sure to clear the browser history in whatever browsers he uses (heres how to do it for safari). Then at the end of the week (or sooner if you get a chance) check the browser history to see if he went to youtube from within the browser. If he did you can confront him for violating the rules you set for him, explain that you checked what he was doing online, and enforce the punishment you threatened ahead of time. This is part of why you stress that he should not be using youtube before you hand back the tablet, so he is appropriately warned when he is punished.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .