Before you know it, your child will be begging for a mobile phone and you will need a technology contract. Yes, a clearly defined document in which clear expectations are defined before your tween or teen gets their hands on a smartphone.
A technology contract sounds so complicated yet it can be very simple. Children are accessing the internet and social media earlier than ever, which creates so many new issues and challenges for parents. You may think you can fight it but the reality is that kids will be online sooner or later and we must teach them how to use technology in an appropriate manner.
Yes, you can use technology and mobile devices in a positive way. When you set limits, establish ground rules and teach your children how to leverage these tools, you can lay the foundation with a healthier relationship with mobile phones, social media and the internet.
A technology contract for kids does not need to be written by a lawyer. It doesn’t even have to be long! It does set forth the terms and conditions that parents and children will abide by, and when your kid signs it, they will feel they are under an obligation to honor the agreement. You can make your own tech contract, but if you enter your info in the form, I will gladly send you my free technology contract for kids so you can print it at home.
Tips to create a technology contract for kids
Want to create your own tech contract? That is more than fine! Before you create it, ask yourself important questions such as:
- How, when and where will the mobile device be used? You need to be specific. For example, be clear if the device can’t be used at mealtime or in school.
- Which social networks (if any) will be allowed? Be very clear on this and establish a timeline if down the road you will allow usage of Snapchat, Instagram or TikTok.
- Does your child need to finish any homework/chores before she or he can use their phone? Again, clear expectations from the beginning will make everything easier down the line.
- Will you take away their device if they misuse it? For me this is crucial. Your child needs to understand there are consequences if they break the contract.
- Do they need your permission to download apps? My personal opinion is that children should not be allowed to download apps on their own, even if they are free. Many will have in-app purchases that cost money.
- May they only connect using wifi or will they be allowed to use data? If your family data plan is unlimited, this is not a big issue, but I know many families that have preset data limits, so this is also an important issues to discuss with your child.
- Will you be monitoring their device? Again, I believe in explaining that since the parent owns the phone and we want to keep our kids safe, we have the right to monitor the device to see if the child is adhering to the rules.
Why do you need a printed technology contract? Because by creating the guidelines, writing them down, printing them and having all parties sign them makes the rules seem more real and concrete. This must be done before a child gains access to a mobile phone, a tablet or a computer. It is much harder to set rules and guidelines after your kid is using a device.
Discuss social media before you give a phone to your child
Aside from the contract, please discuss social media – what’s appropriate to post and general guidelines so kids have a roadmap. For example, explain why they shouldn’t post their location, personal information, their school’s name or photos of their school uniform. You should also be clear that you shouldn’t share photos or videos without other people’s consent. Most important, remind them to never say to anybody something they wouldn’t say to themselves. Cyberbullying is a growing problem, not only on social media but also on messaging apps such as iMessage or WhatsApp and Telegram.
As you can see, it’s not just about limiting use or measuring how much screen time your child gets. As parents, we need to be prepared for all kinds of questions. Take the time to build trust with your kids, listen to what they are saying, and find healthy ways to build their self-esteem. Remind them that social media feeds are not real life, and that people curate and filter what they post online.
And if you need tips on how to raise kids in the age of social media, click here to get my top tips.