Back-to-school is in full swing with parts of the country already back and others of us scrambling to get ready. In the “old days” this just involved making sure kids had backpacks, notebooks, glue sticks and #2 pencils. Now, even kids in elementary school and younger are using iPads and other devices on a regular basis. Where we live, the most common age that kids get cell phones and/or iPads is 5th grade. As a matter of fact, our daughters’ school requires an iPad for all 5th graders. This was probably sooner than we were ready for.
So, when our older daughter got her phone and iPad we decided that the best way for us to be sure we were all on the same page with respect to usage was to literally write a contract. We had a great experience with this, and if you are thinking about doing it, I highly recommend that you take the plunge!
A huge shout-out to Common Sense Media for their template that I customized to create our family’s version. And to Janell Burley Hofmann for her hilarious and well-thought out phone rules, as well as to many other online contracts and in-person conversations that we used for inspiration.
Truth be told, at first I was a little embarrassed to have taken such a Type A approach to the issue, but now that we have lived with it for a while, it’s clear that we reaped the benefits of both the process of making it and the actual document. I also had multiple friends ask for a copy, so I decided I was ready to share with our Jugl community.
YMMV. No doubt you will want to change some things as every family is different and every child is different (which is why we are providing this as an editable document and not a pdf).
For our family, the value in the exercise was two-fold:
Getting the adults in the household on the same page with regards to what role we wanted technology to play in all our lives; and
Creating a roadmap to have a real conversation with our kids about technology.By making it a real dialogue, we were able to learn a lot more about what our kids are doing, seeing and wondering about online. We learned, for example, what our daughter thinks about Instagram (which she doesn’t have access to) allowing us to have a rich conversation about how peoples’ lives appear online and how different that can be from how their lives actually are. It led organically into real discussions about kindness, bullying, online “street smarts,” and the enormous benefits of taking a moment to pause and reflect before hitting “send” (especially if you are in a highly emotional state). By discussing these issues in depth, we get better buy-in from them on the rules because they are seeing them as thoughtful and flexible instead of prohibitive and permanent. By acknowledging that it’s sometimes hard for US to put down our devices and that we also make mistakes, we can get past “do what I say not what I do” objections.
Our kids are in elementary and middle school, so I don’t yet have a high school version created. If anyone has one they love (for high school or at any other level), we’d love you to share it on Facebook so other members of the Jugl community can compare.