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When troubled youth first enter a Boys Town residential program, they are typically in for a shock. They suddenly find they are no longer able to act without consequences or operate without adult supervision. And they no longer have unrestricted access to technology such as computers, TVs, games and mobile phones.

This radical change of environment is, of course, one of the fundamental aspects of the program’s lengthy record of success in preparing at-risk children to become productive, happy adults.

One of the first things new Boys Town residents come to understand is that access to technology is a privilege rather than a right. And certain technologies – such as mobile phones and tablets – are banned.

For Boys Town youth, access to available technology is based on behavior. They don’t earn more TV or video game time simply because they’ve been at Boys Town longer than another resident; they earn access – or have it taken away – based on their individual actions. Over time, access and the trust that goes with it can be increased.

The key to success in this approach is making sure the kids understand what is expected of them from the get-go. They must know that if they misbehave, they’ll receive a negative consequence – often a loss of or a restriction on their technology privileges. On the flipside, they must understand that if they do their chores, get good grades and use the social skills they’ve learned, they’ll receive a positive consequence – often, more  technology privileges.

There are several reasons why mobile devices are banned in Boys Town Family Homes. First, it keeps kids off of social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, places where they can reconnect with the kinds of bad influences that brought them to Boys Town in the first place. It also forces them to use landline phones in common areas so their calls can be monitored by Family-Teachers ®.  This is also the reason computers are placed in common areas.

This lack of mobile connectivity is probably the most difficult adjustment for new residents. However, after a few weeks of participating in activities such as athletics or drama, most Boys Town kids get used to not having their own phone. And their grades typically improve since they have one less distraction to interfere with their studies.

In the end, technology is simply a tool that can be used for good or bad, depending on the actions of the user. So by setting expectations for kids and monitoring its use, technology can be used as a positive influence in a Boys Town Family Home.

Of course, the same is true for your home, too. To learn more about kids and technology, sign up for Boys Town’s FREE four-week email track on this subject and receive one email each week that provides practical, easy-to-use advice from Boys Town parenting experts, including teaching activities and social skills you and your kids can work on at home.