The best way to get on the same page and set up some guidelines for using technology in your home is creating a family media agreement or a technology contract for your kids to sign. Help each member of your family take accountability for their screen time!
It’s so important for us as a family to figure out how to balance technology in our home while also teaching our kids how to use technology appropriately in this day and age. We’re surrounded by technology. In order to be successful in this world, kids need to know how to use it to be productive and successful humans.
TECHNOLOGY GUIDELINES FOR TEENS
If you’ve been around for a while, you know I’ve chatted about the negative impact of technology on our homes before. So what kind of rules and guidelines do you have for technology around your house? I’m talking about cell phones, iPads, computers, tv, the whole she-bang. I’ve been trying to figure out how to balance this with my own family. Part of me wants to just shun all tech because I’m worried about my kids turning into huge couch potatoes or those types of teens that ignore everyone around them because they are texting or surfing all day. I really hate that.
Some questions I’ve been asked frequently about technology are: Do your kids have cell phones? Have you set rigid time limits? Do you ever have to take technology away?
And the answers are: Yes! Max and Elle have cell phones. And Grace has a iPod she can text from. We don’t allow any television on school nights except for special occasions. We haven’t had to take technology away from the kids (yet:).
I keep having this sneaking, gnawing worry about technology. There a ton of pros about technology, but I have been feeling so much responsibility as a mother for teaching my children to properly use it, rather than letting it control them.
TEACH HOW TO USE TECHNOLOGY BY EXAMPLE
As a parent, I find that darn phone of mine cradled in my hand at all the wrong times: during homework help, at the park, during the girls’ bath time. Sure, it’s “important” things I’m working on. Most of it really is. But more “important” than making my eyes shine with my children and husband and keeping my spirit growing?? Nothing is more important than that. Nothing. I may not be modeling a purely responsible example myself. I’ve set a goal to get rid of technology when my kids are home. I put my phone in a different room so I don’t get distracted and can focus on the needs of my family. It’s really, really hard but I’m trying my best and it makes me—and all the rest of us–so much happier. It is my responsibility to model how to use technology.
Technology is sneaky enough to seep into places I don’t want it, and has the audacity to act like it totally belongs there. A waiting list of emails wallow impatiently on my computer screen. All. Day. Long. And they never, ever end. Messages from my voicemail blink at me unwaveringly. Texts ding in my ear and entice me away from things I want to be focused on. So if I, the mother, am letting technology encroach the important parts of my life, how am I supposed to train my children to not let it rule their lives?
KIDS USING TECHNOLOGY
Instagram lures teens into being mesmerized by a screen and things people are doing that they are not. Group texts vibrate in all night long. How in the world can kids concentrate in school when they are texting at 2a.m.? Twitter feeds spill out all kinds of details that no one really needs to know.
Sure, technology has positive points. It’s amazing that I can text Elle at school and remind her about a change in her tennis lesson right after school. Grace can text me about being a little late for dinner. Max can find out his friend is coming to pick him up with a glance at his phone. But where do you draw the line?
How are teens supposed to grow up to be focused, deliberate, personable and passionate adults when they’re locked into screens all the time? I have a hard time with kids siting in the back seat of a car, or at lunch at school, or hanging out on the weekend, each in their own private “cyber world” when they could be having actual human conversations with the people sitting right next to them. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like it.
What happened to going in and talking to the parents when you pick up a girl for a date? Or asking a girl on a date in person for that matter. Elle had a friend who was sad the other day and shared her text conversation about it with me. It warmed my heart that Elle reached out to her to make her feel better, but why not pick up a phone and say, “Hello, this is Elle. May I talk to ______?” and then letting a human conversation of concern and love ensue? We need more of that!
HOW DO WE SET KIDS UP FOR SUCCESS?
As I was wading in my worry and trying to figure out how to positively entice my children to stay in the human world rather than letting technology wrap it’s greedy little fingers around their brains I was reminded of something I had read. A mother had created a “phone contract” for her 13-year-old when she gave him a new phone for Christmas. It hit me: We needed our own family technology contract. And we needed it speedy-quick.
I studied the phone contract from Huffington post and decided to tweak it for our family. Parents are supposed to train and teach their children to be successful in this world. Having a contract doesn’t mean you don’t trust someone. In fact, a contract allows you to set clear expectations so that you can trust someone more. It will then make it easier to hold each party of the contract responsible in the future. A technology contract opens the avenue for healthy conversations with your teens about technology. I am 100% in favor of that great idea.
Dave and I went over my version of the contract together and then we introduced it to our kids in a special family council Family Home Evening. Lucy didn’t pay the least amount of attention and colored to her heart’s content, but the older four and Dave and I had the best conversation about all this technology hoopla. I’m so grateful for Janell Hoffman and her great idea because I tell you, we sat there and talked and talked about all the ins and outs of texting and tweeting and Instagramming…you name it. They told us things we didn’t know. We told them things they couldn’t know. Open conversation with teens is everything.
OUR TECHNOLOGY CONTRACT
Here’s a snippet of the contract we re-worked from that original one. We talked through each point together, even though it is long. Grab the full Technology Contract printable here!
You are the proud owners of technology we never dreamed of having when we were your age! You are good and responsible children and we want you to have these things. As with many things in your life, as your parents, we feel the need to present some rules and guidelines because we adore you and want to help you be safe. We have been around a little longer than you have. We have seen the marvels of all this great technology and we are so grateful for it! But we have also noticed a gradual decline of old-fashioned communication that we feel is so very important for your spirit and your general development. So we’d like to introduce you to some rules and regulations we are establishing in our home.
Please read through the following contract. We hope that you understand it is our job to raise you into well-rounded, healthy young individuals that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. You may be mad at us for a while about some of these things. You have enjoyed some great technological freedom which you have not abused and we are proud of you for that. But we feel the need to train you (as we train ourselves) to not let technology take over in our family or with your friends.Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your technology freedom. We love you with all our hearts and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the years to come.
Technology House Rules
- Any cell phone in our home is a family phone. We, your parents, have bought these things. We pay for them. We are loaning them to you with the understanding that you will act responsibly.
- If you choose to put a password on your devices, we will always know the password.
- Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 8:30pm every school night and every weekend at 11pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again before you leave for school.
- Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO — fear of missing out.
- After school you are mine for at least 15 minutes. Tell me our “three things” about your day before thinking about looking at a screen.
Technology Usage Rules
- At this point in the game, we reserve the right to be the only ones to give you license to any new apps. Please let us know if you want something new and why. We love to discuss these things with you, and we mostly trust your judgment.
- No pornography. If you have access to the web, search it only for information you would openly share with us. If you have a question about anything, ask a person — preferably us… we know more than you think we do.
- Do not take seductive or inappropriate pictures of yourself or anyone else. Remember first and foremost that in our family we seek after goodness and want to shine our light to others. Remember also that cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. Be careful what you put out there. It is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear, including a bad reputation and hurt feelings.
- In addition to music you love, download music that is new or classic or different from what all your peers listen to. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
- Play a game with words or puzzles or brainteasers every now and then.
Technology Communication Rules
- Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ — not ever.
- If you would not make a call to someone’s landline, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
- Do not text, email, or say anything through your device that you would not say in person, out loud, with your friend’s parents in the room. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Censor yourself.
- Although it is okay to take your phone to school with you, realize that it is mostly so that we can get a hold of you if we need you. Pay attention to your teachers. Work on assignments. Fill your brains with knowledge. At school, it must be turned off at lunch. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It is a life skill.
- Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow your phone to change that.
- Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to someone new. Wonder without googling.
Other Technology Rules
- If your device falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen and you should be prepared.
- You will mess up and we will take your phone away when you do. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start all over again. We are always learning. We are on your team. We are in this together.
- Most importantly, remember that your spirit is the most important thing that you have. Don’t let this privilege cramp your wonderful spirit. Don’t ever let your phone or technology seep into your relationship with your Heavenly Father. The noise of technology is quick to make us all think looking at a screen is more important than talking, especially to Heavenly Father. Make a practice to read your scriptures before you check texts or instagram in the morning. Pray first as well.
It is our hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply only to phones or iPods, but to life in general. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine.We love you forever,
Mom and Dad
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN A TECHNOLOGY CONTRACT
If you want to create your own contract, here are the main things you want to include to cover all your bases. First, you’ll want to have time limits for each device. This could include a no technology at the dinner table or no technology after a certain time each night.
You’ll also want to specify what content is appropriate for kids to consume. Which apps are off-limits, are games allowed, which sites to avoid, what social media can be created or consumed, etc.
Safety standards will also need to be set. Clarify that sharing personal information with anyone online is dangerous. There are certain things that need to be kept personal. In order to stay safe, you’ll want to make sure that kids know not to share their current location. And of course, sharing images can do lasting damage. Be sure your kids are aware of what they are doing on their phones.
Lastly, you’ll want to set consequences within the contract so that the repercussions of breaking the contract are clear. This way your teens cannot hold it against you if they break the rules. And it’s much easier for you to enforce!
Now you can make your own technology contract!
SHARING YOUR TECHNOLOGY CONTRACT
In order to get your family on board with the technology contract, make sure you set expectations. We love family council for this reason, it allows everyone to gather together with the idea that we’ll be discussing something important. Start the discussion on a positive note.
When we had our technology contract discussion, the love and communication in that room was tangible. We took some input from the kids to further make the contract unique for our family needs from there and the goal is for us all to sign it to make it official. How I hope that that discussion will be one of many to come as we all try to maneuver our way through a world with increasingly more and more technology at our fingertips. We are the first generation of parents to deal with the influence of technology on our kids. I just hope we can use it for good and keep up our human-ness on the side 🙂
MORE TECHNOLOGY TIPS FOR YOUR FAMILY
I share so many tips that I feel will help on the journey of motherhood! Here are some of my best posts about technology and teens.
- Check out these fantastic resources to help you learn more about technology and how to navigate it with a family The Tech-Wise Family Book Review.
- What I learned from our Collin Kartchner Night… this was an amazing experience.
- Should kids have social media? Yes, I’m opening up this can of worms over on this post. Come check it out and share your thoughts!