The Importance Of Family Media Contracts

The landscape of the Internet has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Many parents of current students grew up in the early years of the Internet before social media existed and when companies hadn’t gotten hip to all the ways they could capture our attention using technology. It can be hard to develop parenting strategies to deal with technology when that technology is not native to you.

A lot of good can come from a child’s access to technology. There are apps to help them read, learn how to code, or enable them to delve into whatever subject they’re passionate about. It can be tempting to remove your child’s access to technology altogether to keep them safe. But the reality is our children are growing up in a world that is becoming more technological, not less. And rather than keep them from technology, we want to give them the tools and the strategies to use technology safely at any age.

Developing a family media contract is an excellent way to create boundaries around technology with your kids and teens. Family media contracts create hard and fast rules around how, when, why, and where your children can access media. By setting a system up in advance, your boundaries are clear as day, so your children (like it or not) know what to expect from you. Family media contracts can and should apply to parents as well. We are not immune to the addictive nature of technology, and our children watch us as we mindlessly scroll through social media or online news.

You can get started with printable general media contract templates for computer, cell phone, and video game use from i-tech. Here are some questions to help you develop a social media contract for your family.

When Are You Using Technology?
It is common for families to set time limits on when it is appropriate for their children to access technology. Those limits may include specific days of the week, particular times of the day, and even specific lengths of time. For example, you may say your child can have daily access to technology, but only for an hour. Or you may say your child can use a tablet but only on Thursdays and Saturdays. It could also be conditional based on whether or not they have completed something – their chores, homework, or other responsibilities for the day or week. You know your child better than anyone else, and it’s important that these guidelines fit in with your family’s routine.

Where Are You Using Technology?
Together, you’ll need to decide where your child can access technology. Can they have a laptop or tablet in their room alone with the door closed? Or would you prefer to have more control over what they view by only allowing it in the open spaces of your home? Maybe they can watch the device in the living room, but cannot have it at the dinner table. You may also have boundaries around open devices when conversations occur or when guests are over. Factor in their reputation for being responsible when it comes to caring for things as you decide whether or not the tablet can come in the car on a vacation for example. Are devices allowed or appropriate out of the home or at a particular event they’re attending? Bear in mind the influence of others that can come into play with peers or unsafe adults they may encounter. Create a plan that serves your family while honoring the ebb and flow of your life.

Why Are You Using Technology?
What kind of things are your children allowed to access? Why do they need to use technology? You may be very comfortable with them spending time on an app like ABC Mouse, where they learn age-appropriate educational things, but not accessing social media. Are they allowed to play games? Should they have access to Google anything they want? These are all really important decisions that your family needs to make to determine how you set up devices and what access your children are given.

How Are You Using Technology?

Finally, your family media contract should address how your children are allowed to communicate using technology. Are they allowed to take photos of themselves? Do they have access to texting? Can they join app apps without your permission? Another valuable conversation to have with your children is what online bullying looks like and what to do when they encounter it.

Raising kids is hard. When we add the unknowns of technology to the equation, it can feel scary and overwhelming. We believe that by creating structure and boundaries around things like technology, we can help protect our kids from harm and give them the tools to make wise decisions about how they access tech throughout their entire lives. Also, learn to model good behavior by setting good boundaries for yourself with technology. If you have questions about family media contracts or would like more parenting tips for setting healthy boundaries, we would love to help. Contact us today for more information.

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