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Our daughter just turned 13 a few weeks ago. It was a big milestone for obvious reasons, but for one more than others in her mind: she got her first cell phone.
Granted it was not the new iPhone she’d been pining after for months; instead, we offered her our old iPhone 4s for a ‘trial year’ with quite a few stipulations, one of which was a technology contract.
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Cell phones and kids can be a scary combination today, so we sought help from experts as to how to proceed with wisdom and caution into this new stage. One of those experts is Amy Williams, who offered to write a post to share with all of you who might be going through the same stage we are.
The post below was written by Amy and it’s my hope you’ll find it as informative and helpful as we did in navigating how to come up with a technology contract for your family.
We are raising a generation of children who can’t remember a time before the Internet or when cellphones were a luxury. Our sons and daughters have known how to work tablets, computers, gaming consoles, and smartphones before they could read.
This influx of technology has made our lives simpler, making it easier for us to communicate with others and intake a variety of new information. Unfortunately, technology can also cause tension in our homes and expose our kids to dangerous situations. Thankfully, we can achieve a healthy balance by implementing a family technology contract.
Technology Contract Benefits
A technology contract might sound intimidating at first, but this document outlines the family’s do’s and don’ts for using technology. A good technology contract clearly defines what is and isn’t expected with outlined consequences if there is a breach in the agreement. If used correctly, it helps kids and parents get on the same page when it comes to digital devices and can prevent many disagreements down the road.
By labeling and identifying specific expectations, we can proactively help our children safely use today’s technology before a problem surfaces. Simply put, a technology contract is a preventative measure we can use to help our kids gain the tools and knowledge to protect themselves online from potential cyberbullies, sexting requests, over sharing, online predators, overuse of media, and more. Even tech giants like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates used screen and technology limits for their children.
Guidelines for Creating a Family Technology Contract
Start with a technology contract from the very beginning. Most families find it’s ideal to use technology contracts when a child gets his or her first phone or starts to regularly use their own devices. This helps our children accept the guidelines and rules while starting them out with the right tools to stay safe.
Get input from every family member. Gather everyone together and allow them a say in writing the technology contract. By doing so, we allow children a voice in the process and avoid pitting us against them. As an added benefit, everyone will get to decide the role technology will play in our family dynamics.
Use specific and clear definitions. This is crucial because our children and teens need well-established boundaries to understand what behaviors are acceptable and what actions cross the line. Our kids might not see the harm in taking a selfie while wrapped in a towel or telling another person that they are “stupid”. It’s our job as parents to make sure they understand how these behaviors could be viewed as cyberbullying or sexting.
Address cyberbullying, sexting, over sharing, and access to inappropriate content. Our sons and daughters need to understand that the words or images they share online carry a lot of power. We should make it clear we won’t tolerate cruel comments, inappropriate conduct, sexual imagery, and sharing of personal information.
Clearly address data and application usage. This is important because we all dread outrageous bills. In the technology contract, state if children can use data or download apps. Specifically, discuss the amount of data a child can use and if they need your approval before buying apps or items within apps.
Get access to a child’s accounts. Our oldest teens and kids will probably fight us on this, but we need to remind them that anything they share online or over social media is never really private. It is also a safety measure in case they get locked out of their accounts or they lose their device.
Don’t forget about outlining our role when it comes to a child’s technology use. Do you plan on monitoring their phone? Will you be reading their emails and texts or let them be free range? Will you want to be friended online? It’s important we are honest about the role we expect to play.
Add a section about texting while driving. In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 18 percent of all crashes which resulted in injuries were caused by distracted drivers. Cell phones are one of the biggest distractions on the road. In the time it takes to look at a text, you will travel the length of a football field. A lot can happen in 100 yards. We need to make sure our children, teens, and even significant others understand the importance of putting down cell phones while operating a vehicle.
What does your family plan to include in your technology contract?
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. On Twitter at: @AmyKWilliams1