My son definitely has grown up in the digital age. Because I work online, and have for years, he was kind of sucked into a world like this from the start. Along the way I learned a lot of things, sometimes a little too late though. All in all, he’s a good kid and does understand a lot about the digital world he lives in. As a young adult and living out on his own though I really do not have any control these days.
When your kids are still at home though I think a contract of sorts can really be helpful for parenting in the digital age. I call it a contract, but you can use whatever word you want if contract sounds to strong for you. The gist of it is to have something in writing that states the rules, expectations, limitations, or any other terms along with consequences if they are not followed. Obviously, these will be different for everyone based on your thoughts and ideals as a parent and the age and level of your child.
Here are some things to consider including in your own contract:
- How much screen time are they allowed per day? Make sure you include any needed time for school work as well as their own down time.
- What sites are they allowed to visit? For younger kids it is easier to list specific sites they can use rather than what they cannot.
- What devices can they use to access the internet?
- Where must devices be put at night (out of their room) so they can sleep well?
- What should they do if they accidentally end up on a site they shouldn’t or see something they know is wrong?
- Are you requiring them to share their passwords with you?
- How often should they change their passwords?
- Can they make social network accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.)
- Can they purchase games, apps, etc. online? If so, do they need your permission or is there a set limit per month?
- Are they allowed to use photos or videos online?
- What should they do if they feel they are being bullied or they see someone they know being bullied?
- Can they use the internet and/or their devices at other places?
- Is there a limit on game time versus regular online surfing?
- What are the consequences for not following the contract? State specifically what the penalty is and for how long.
- Include how and when these items can be changed. At the parents call alone? At a family meeting?
Again, these are just ideas to get you started. You can make this as simple you like. It is just a way for everyone in the family to be clear. If the kids are not following your rules it also makes it easier for you as a parent to not make a hasty spur of the moment consequence that you later rethink. This helps you be consistent.
If your kids are young you might want to make the contract up yourself. If your kids are a little older you can work together to come up with the rules and consequences. Regardless, once you have the list the parents and children should go over each item to make sure it is understood. Then have each person sign the contract and post it near your family computer, the fridge, family network center, or wherever it will be seen.
Once your contract is done, do not just let it hang there. Go over it regularly and update it as your child grows. Use it as a working tool for your family. Having clear expectations of our children helps them grow and learn. Again though, you need to make this work with your own unique parenting style.
Do you have rules for your kids and their use of devices and internet in this digital world? Do you have any tips to share with other parents and caregivers?[signoff]
© 2014, Robyn Wright. All rights reserved.