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Sarah Michelle Gellar Wants to Be ‘Realistic’ About Limiting Her Kids’ Phone and iPad Usage (Exclusive)

Sarah Michelle Gellar has handled vampires, werewolves and more on screen with ease, but off screen, protecting her two kids is harder when they have so much technology at their fingertips.

“There’s parts of [technology] that are great, and there are parts of it that aren’t,” Gellar, 46, told Us Weekly while promoting her partnership with UScellular for the Global Day of Unplugging, which is on Friday, March 1. “I love the idea that I know where they are at all times because it shows up on my phone. I took two crosstown buses in New York City to get to school. My mom had no idea where I was, and I can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like for her.”

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum shares daughter Charlotte, 14, and son Rocky, 11, with her husband of nearly 22 years, Freddie Prinze Jr. The pair set strict rules for their kids when it comes to internet access and their devices, but that doesn’t mean just restricting screen time as a whole.

“Look, we had rain for five days. What do I expect these kids to do?” Gellar said. “I want to be realistic with them about their time.”

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That means establishing some guidelines. Gellar said that their kids first have to wait until finishing elementary school to get their own phone. “You have to graduate lower school to get your phone, so my son actually will be getting his phone in June,” Gellar explained to Us. “He does not have one yet. He has an iPad for travel and stuff like that.”

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Sarah Michelle Gellar. MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Do Revenge star also takes full advantage of the parental controls when she lets one of her children use a tablet or phone, monitoring how many hours they spend in front of the screen and what they’re looking at. “We can’t expect kids to be able to self-regulate, right? That’s something that we’re still learning how to do [as adults],” she said.

Though Gellar can control the devices she buys for their kids, she can’t control other kids and their phones — which can lead to some awkward situations. Gellar was shocked when one of Rocky’s friends with a phone once showed him something on the internet about her.

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“It was actually my son one day who came home and said, oh, so-and-so has a phone or something. They looked it up and we had to explain that you can’t do that,” she recalled, adding that the school has some protections in place. “A lot of the school computers in the lower school, you actually can’t look up a lot of the parents because you don’t need that information or those photos or whatever. I don’t need my fifth grader watching Cruel Intentions.”

The summer will be a learning experience for her son as he figures out the boundaries his mom sets with his phone. “I control what kind of websites when he first gets it that he can be on, so that I can sort of use that as the teaching moment,” Gellar shared. “And when it shuts off, they realize how long they’ve actually been on it, and then it’s up to me to decide: can you have more time?”

Screen time is one obstacle, but social media use is a different beast. Gellar said that social profiles are a privilege that her kids “earn later” after they get a phone, which Charlotte didn’t appreciate.

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Courtesy of Sarah Michelle Gellar/Instagram

“My daughter thought it was unfair. She was one of the last ones to get [social media],” she said. “But I did have to explain to her that when your parents are public figures, there’s just sort of this different set of rules that comes with it, and my son will be a little bit better about it. He doesn’t really care about that. But when my daughter first got social media, our rule was that she couldn’t post anything until she showed it to us and ran it by us because we wanted to say, ‘Maybe you need to think about the song that’s behind that,’ or ‘maybe this could …’ to really sort of understand — because again — you can’t expect them to just automatically know. And it’s hard. It’s learning a new set of rules.”

However, Charlotte isn’t the only one learning the new rules. Gellar explained that she has to figure out what’s appropriate now versus when she was a kid.

“I realized as I was talking to my daughter about it that I’m a child of the ’80s. ‘Don’t talk to strangers, don’t meet people online,'” she said. “And now, that’s how these kids meet, and she’s actually made great friends that live in different cities. And we didn’t used to be weird about pen pals. It’s still kind of the same idea. So there’s no roadmap for me. So we’re kind of learning together.”

They’re also learning how to disconnect together. Gellar teamed up with UScellular for the Global Day of Unplugging to support the company’s mission to encourage healthier digital habits.

“Unplugging is something I actually don’t think we speak enough about,” Gellar told Us. “We talk a lot about the problems that we’re seeing from this very digitally connected world — the amounts of loneliness, that people can’t have eye contact anymore, that they can’t have confrontation because they really don’t know how to deal when they’re not behind a keyboard — and one of the things that I realized on my own is what those resets, those breaks [from the screen], really do for you.”

She continued, “I think because life moves so quickly, we don’t realize how much we’re relying on them and using them to fill our time and not actually do the things that feed our souls.

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So when UScellular asked her to partner with them for the Day of Global Unplugging, Gellar said it was a no-brainer. “What a great example that I can set for my kids and really show them that this is something that I do take seriously and that I’m not saying no technology,” she said. “Technology is amazing, but we do have to revisit our relationship with it.”

UScellular will also donate up to $50,000 to the nonprofit organization Unplug Collaborative, which organizes the Global Day of Unplugging, for every share of their Global Day of Unplugging image, which can be found on Gellar’s social media profiles.

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