Technology is an issue that parents have faced for decades. Before smart phones and social media were console games and TVs. Before TVs were radios. The technology battle hasn’t changed, it has simply become more complex, leaving parents to deal with monitoring a multitude of technology forms. From eyes glued to smartphones all day to hours spent playing video games and browsing social media, kids are immersed in technology.
What is a Family Media Agreement?
Despite the increase in technology and how intuitive it has become for the younger generation, safe and appropriate technology use is something which doesn’t come as second nature – it needs to be taught. Online harassment (both by and of your child), when to get a phone, and appropriate screen-time limits are often top of mind for parents. To avoid heading out into the dark, haphazardly feeling your way at each given turn in the road, it’s important to set boundaries and teach safe technology use. A family media contract is a useful way to get started.
Family media contracts help teach proper technology use and set expectations. They allow you to start an open conversation with your kids and encourage them to be a part of the decision making. By creating a family media contract, your kids will know their boundaries and have concrete consequences for breaking them. They will also develop stronger planning and self-regulation skills, learning to be the gatekeepers of their own actions.
In addition to guiding your child’s technology use, family contracts can help improve your family dynamics, individual relationships with your spouse and children, your productivity, and your own planning and self-regulation skills. Since family media agreements are just that – FAMILY agreements, everyone is agreeing to adjust their behaviors and relationship with technology. Honestly, I’m not immune to technology vortexes and our family contract is what often pulls me out of the hole, giving me a much-needed reset.
What to Include in a Family Media Contract
When your child starts to use technology without your supervision (playing unsupervised video games, using the family computer etc.), it’s important to create a family media contract. This will help teach them “proper” technology usage and set some ground rules to fall back on for those times when your child makes a mistake. Below are some factors to include in your family media contract.
1. Time Limits
You’ll need to have an agreed-upon time limit for each device. This might change or be adjusted as time goes on. This might include blackout times when technology is not allowed such as enforcing “no technology at the dinner table” or “no technology an hour before bedtime”. What’s important is that you set consistent limits on usage time and what types of technology are allowed.
2. Appropriate Content
There should be a discussion about what is considered appropriate content. If the contract is for video games, be sure to include what ratings are appropriate for your child’s age. If it’s for a phone, be sure to include what apps they are and aren’t allowed to use. For computers, discuss the types of sites they are allowed to access and give specific examples of ones they are not permitted to access.
3. Rules About Sharing
Sharing personal information online can be dangerous. Be sure to include rules about what is allowed to be shared and what should be kept private. Some topics to discuss are sharing your location, sexting and what can be posted on social sites.
Finally, it’s important to the consequences ahead of time. This way your kids will know what happens if they break the rules. Make the rules as specific as possible and adjust the consequences based on the item. For example, the consequence for sharing inappropriate content might be different from having a phone at the dinner table.
Considering these four things will help you create a contract that fits your parenting style. Depending on your kids’ ages, you’ll want to reinforce these rules by setting parental controls on devices and monitoring their activity and technology use.
A Technology Contract Template and More Advice
If you’re looking for a straightforward start, download my General Family Media Contract to get started improving your family’s relationships with technology, each other, and life.
While a family media contract may be enough for some families, others may need more ideas for setting limits around technology. ADHD brains cause an additional challenge in many households as they are, by nature are prone to addictions, especially technology.
Whether you are living in an ADHD home or simply worn down by all the pleading and tears, these suggestions for how to manage technology with an ADHD child (or technology addition) can help you set better limits and prevent you from going “completely” insane.