Laura Sandefer

It was a battle we were not winning.

Every time Jeff or I took a stand to limit “tech time” at home, it would stick for a day or two, maybe a week.

Then we’d forget or get busy or decide we were too tired to fight that battle and before we knew it, a few months had gone by and we were once again sitting looking at each other saying we were terrible parents.

“The boys spend way too much time on their phones, on Netflix and playing video games,” Jeff said, down-trodden.

“But look at us,” I replied. “We check our phones at red lights. We binge-watched the entire Office series. We Google check facts at dinner all the time. We are terrible role models for limiting tech time.”

What exactly is our fear?

Are we afraid they are becoming addicted? Or that they’ll be exposed to pornography? Or that they won’t know how to have real relationships?

But isn’t there value in some games? Didn’t we build a school around gamification? Isn’t some frivolous entertainment okay?

It went on. And on.

A month-long rollercoaster ride of conversations that took us to the brink of marital distress began at Thanksgiving and ended on New Year’s Day.

Over a lunch that was somber but powerful, we came to a beautiful understanding. Promising each other we wouldn’t be defensive or angry, we opened up with our boys about our dilemma. We wouldn’t simply lay down the law with them about “tech time.” We wanted to share our fears and our failures as parents. We wanted them to understand the why behind our concerns.

As we listened to their poignant responses to our questions, we became more aware of the real fear we have: that they will not know how to be still – truly quiet in their minds.

Technology is not the enemy. The enemy is noise. Constant distraction. This noise comes in many forms – some more socially acceptable than others. Staying busy and working too hard, for example. Running errands whenever there is a free moment. Reading junk.

Learning to be still and free from the noise of the world is what I wish for each person in my family including myself. It is the only possible way we will hear that small inner voice or have any inkling of a Power greater than ourselves.

So, yes, we will limit tech time. But now we know why.

Co-founder and Chief Encourager for Acton Academy


Laura Sandefer is an author and the co-founder of Acton Academy, a school whose learner-driven model is spreading across the globe with over 130 locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, Malaysia and more, and in 2019 is celebrating 10 years of letting children take learning into their owns hands.

Acton Academy bases their model of learning on the Hero’s Journey: a story pattern common in ancient myths and modern day adventures in which a hero goes on an adventure, wins a victory and comes home transformed. Children at Acton Academy know why they are being challenged to learn — they are on their own Hero’s Journey to find their passion in life.

Acton Academy and Sandefer have been featured in the Austin American Statesman, Inc., Forbes, National Review, Huffington Post and more. Sandefer has a bachelor of arts and masters of education degrees from Vanderbilt University. She currently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, children and three dogs.