My dear friend Heather and I were talking about devices recently and Heather shared the brilliant idea of a phone “contract” for kids, including the one she customized for her daughter. Below is my edited version; I trimmed, added some elements, and reorganized. I hope this is helpful to you if you’re thinking about a device for your kid, or as a chance to set some ground rules on existing usage. Feel free to copy and tweak for your own use!
+ + + + +
Dear [Insert Name of Your Awesome Kid],
Congratulations -- you’re about to be the proud user of a phone! You’re smart and responsible and have earned the privilege to use this phone. AND, with the acceptance of this phone comes ground rules. We hope that you understand that it’s our job to raise you into a well-rounded, healthy, mindful person who can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Please read through this agreement. Failure to comply with these rules may result in the limitation, restriction, or termination of your phone usage.
Let us know if you have any questions. We love you with all our heart and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the years to come!
THE DEVICE ITSELF
1. It is our phone. We bought it. We pay for it. We are loaning it to you. Aren't we the greatest?
2. We will always know the password, have the right to check your phone at any time, and may do so periodically without warning. This does not mean that we don’t trust you. It is our job as parents to ensure your safety.
3. You are not to download any apps -- free or paid -- without our permission first.
4. You are not to open any account (e.g., Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat) without our approval first.
5. If the phone falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.
6. Be careful/selective about who you give your number to. If you don't know a person well enough (in person as a friend) or don't want to receive texts or calls from a person, you should not give them your number.
7. Remember that this phone has great possibilities for your creativity. Whether it’s learning about new music, learning a skill (e.g., from a DIY video), or learning facts for a school project, this tool is an amazing resource -- one to be respected.
8. If you make a mistake regarding anything in this agreement, TELL US. You will likely make a mistake at some point and that is OK -- it’s part of the learning process. There will be consequences (consequences will help you learn to be responsible!) but we will deal with it as a family. We’re a team -- we’re in this together!
9. Homework and chores must be done before games/apps are played.
10. There is a 30-consecutive-minutes limit to playing games. Your eyes/body need a break!
11. Hand the phone to one of us at 8pm on school nights and 10pm on weekend nights. The phone will be shut off for the night and turned on again in the morning.
12. Follow your school’s rules about phone usage. If your school dictates that phones stay in your locker during school hours, leave your phone in your locker. If we need to get a hold of you in the event of an emergency, we’ll call the school office.
13. If you are asked to turn off/stop playing/get off your phone, do so immediately with a respectful attitude.
14. 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).
15. Remember that there is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. Be present.
16. Do not use the phone during meals (at home or restaurant), family time, at the movies, or when people are talking to you in person (as you know, these are bad manners).
17. When your friends are over, phones will be placed in a basket in the kitchen. There is no need to be using phones when friends are over.
18. Do not let anyone use your phone. If your friend needs to get a hold of someone, you can send a message for them but no one can use your phone.
19. Do not post pictures of friends without their consent or on public social channels.
20. Do not send or receive pictures of anything inappropriate. While in the moment it may seem funny or entertaining, the risks outweigh the entertainment value.
21. If you have questions about anything sensitive (e.g., sex), ASK US FIRST. The web is a large place that has lots of wonderful content and also lots of awful content. We will answer your questions or help you find the information you need.
COMMUNICATING WITH FAMILY + FRIENDS
22. Do not ignore phone calls or text messages from your parents. We will do the same when you contact us.
23. Always first make an effort to have a conversation with the people you text in person. Remember context and emotion are lost in email and text and words can be misunderstood. It's a life skill.
24. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device that you would not say in person.
25. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first and stay out of the crossfire.
26. If friends try to pressure you to use your phone in a way that violates our agreement or your own sense of what’s right, stand up for yourself and/or use us as a means to extract yourself from the situation (e.g., “My parents won’t allow me to…”).
Our goal for this agreement is not to tether you but to provide clear parameters that will help you continue to develop into a smart, respectful citizen of the world. Enjoy what this device offers you and always trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. We love you and hope you enjoy your awesome phone.
[Insert Parent/Guardian configuration]
+ + + + +
Image credit: Pixabay