A Technology Contract for Tweens and Teens (and Parents!)

By Amy Nelson Makechnie

The technology contract idea came from Janell Burley Hoffman’s contract written for her teenage son and his new iPhone. It was published on December 2012 for The Huffington Post. As a mother of tweens and teens, I adapted it to fit our family. We want our children to be tech-savvy, but live in the present, and have meaningful and daily conversations with real people. As with any system, my experience is that laying out the rules ahead of time leads to a much smoother family life, with less arguing and ambiguity. Using this contract as a guide, I suggest getting input from kids during a family council. Tweak and adjust so it fits your individual family needs. Then, stick with it. And good luck!

Dear Children,

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a cell phone, iPod, or iPad — Aren’t you lucky!? These devices are something your parents never had; we used a phone with a short curly cord attached to the wall in the kitchen.

Because we love you and want to raise responsible, kind and well-rounded children, here are some rules regarding your amazing piece of technology.

  1. Your [insert technology here: cell phone, iPod, iPad] is a family device. Your parents bought it and are letting you use it. Aren’t we awesome?
  2. We will always know the passwords for all of your devices.
  3. When your mom or dad calls, texts or emails, answer. This is the primary reason we gave you a phone: to communicate. Have good manners.
  4. At home, technology is to be used in public spaces — not bedrooms. We can talk about exceptions like homework.
  5. All devices are to be shut off and handed over to your parents at 8 p.m. until the next morning. If you need to make a call, text, or write an email after 8 p.m., ask permission. Be respectful of other families and their time together as we like others to be respectful of our family and our time.
  6. You may take your device to school. Use it wisely. Do not text or email during class. Have real face-to-face conversations with your teachers and friends during lunch and free time. It’s a life skill.
  7. If it falls in the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Start saving. It will happen. Be prepared.
  8. Do not use your device to bully, lie, trick or deceive another human being. You are a kind person. Act that way.
  9. Do not text, email or say anything through this device that you would not say in person or in front of your parents.
  10. No pornography. If you have questions, ask a trusted adult — preferably your parents.
  11. At home, devices are put away during meals. In public places, like restaurants and theatres — or while speaking to another human being — turn off or silence your technology. Make eye contact. Real people are more important than websites and online games.
  12. Speaking of online games: they are addictive. Stay away from violence. Always ask yourself if you are using your time well.
  13. Do not take, send or receive seductive or inappropriate pictures of yourself or anyone else. Pictures don’t disappear and can ruin your reputation. Remember that you represent yourself and your family. Let your light shine.
  14. Ask permission before you download any apps or movies or visit “chat rooms.”
  15. Listen to different types of music. Try classical music. It will fill your mind with wonder. Never before has music been so accessible. Take advantage of this gift.
  16. Leave your technology at home sometimes. Live real life without the FOMO (fear of missing out.) Your technology is not alive — you are! Look up. See the world around you. Listen to nature. Take a walk. Think. Ponder. Wonder without “Googling.”
  17. After school, all homework, piano and chores must be done before screen time. (P.S. Your mom really appreciates a conversation about your day.)
  18. You will mess up. We will take your device away. We will talk about it. We will start over again. We are learning together. We are on your team.

Most of these lessons apply to life in general. Technology is an amazingly powerful and enticing tool. Use it well and always for good. Trust your mind and heart whenever you are using your phone or are on-line. Now, enjoy your new device — it’s going to be fun!

If you agree to the terms, please sign your name below.

X_______________________

Love, Mom and Dad

Download a text file of this contract for your personal use


September-October 2014

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