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How to Create a Family Contract for Smartphone Use

A few months ago I was talking with my mother about the differences between raising a teenager in the 90s (when I was a teen) and raising a teenager today.  Most everything was the same — juggling school, activities and friends; feeding them healthy food; getting enough family time; affording a teenager and other things that parents of teens have to manage.

The one thing that caused my mother to exclaim that she was glad she raised teens in the 70s, 80s and 90s was the availability of technology.  It’s not that we can’t appreciate the benefits of technology — instant access to information (especially when I’m homeschooling high school level maths!); connection with friends and family even when we can’t be together; access to both educational and fun applications– it’s that this level of access that our children have to so many things at the touch of a screen is uncharted territory for parents.

It’s not as simple as turning the TV off during certain times, restricting desktop computer use, not allowing friends over when parents aren’t home or not answering the phone during dinner.  The technology of smartphones allows our children to have a TV (heck, a movie theater!), a  computer, a phone, a camera, their friends (and their crushes!) right in their pocket.  Everywhere they go, anytime of day, our children have access to the world via their smartphone.

Are you ready for that?  Is your teen ready for that?

Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone?

There’s no one-size-fits all answer to that question.  Some children will be ready for smartphone use before they become teenagers.  Some won’t be ready until they are well into their teen years.  According to a survey conducted by ResearchNow on behalf of LifeLock, the majority of children received their first smartphone between the ages of 8-12.

Chances are you’ll get your child a phone before they are quite ready to handle the responsibility.  It may be out of necessity or it may be because all of their friends have phones already.  Here are a few questions to ask in order to determine if your child is ready for a smartphone.

Does your child frequently misplace or forget important objects like homework, sports equipment or other portable electronics?

Does your child need to stay in touch with you when he or she is at after-school activities or with friends?

How responsible is your child with TV and computer usage?

How trustworthy are your child’s friends and how apt is your child to allow his or her friends to use or borrow his or her smartphone?

Does your child follow the rules you set most of the time?  Does he or she use internal motivation to do the right thing or wait for your external threats of punishment before complying? 

Of course, these are just a few guidelines and each family will have to decide when their children are each ready for a smartphone.

Creating a Family Contract for Smartphone Use:  My Experience

This summer I passed down my old smartphone to my 14-year-old son when I upgraded.  We needed to be able to keep in touch with him when he was at soccer practice or a friend’s house.  We’ve always had rules about technology use, but we, like 79% of families according to the Research Now study, have never written those rules down.

LifeLock, Inc., and National PTA® have recently created a resource for parents to help them have a clear conversation with their children about technology use and, importantly, to create a clear, printable family smartphone use contract. When I found out about  The Smart Talk website I knew it was something I needed to do immediately with my oldest son and, when the time comes, with my other two sons, as well. As we worked through creating the smartphone use contract, I was pleased that it covered all of the bases.

All of the things we’d talked about — from time limits to bullying and everything in between — were covered in the contract.  The Smart Talk tool helps families discuss and create rules for the following areas of smartphone use:  Safety & Privacy, Screen Time, Social Media, Apps & Downloads, Texting & Calling, Reputation & Respect, and Online Videos & Cameras.

The Smart Talk from LifeLock

The online family smartphone use contract creation tool from The Smart Talk provides an interactive experience that will help you put into writing the rules that work for your family.  Once you have gone through the steps, talked about the various topics related to smart smartphone use and agreed on the rules, you can print the contract.  Both you and your children can sign the contract and revisit the terms in an agreed-upon amount of time.

Smart Talk Family Agreement

Create a Family Contract for Smartphone Use Now!

You can get your own family contract for smartphone use today!  Visit the Smart Talk site to check out the online safety resources and create your own personalized family contract to encourage healthy digital habits.

Get started today creating healthy smartphone habits for your family!

How to Create a Printable Family Contract for Smartphone Use

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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