Many times each year parents and teachers ask me for examples of agreements and contracts that can help families focus on digital life expectations and limits-setting. Some individuals seek a pre-written document to use with their children, while others hope to design and write a document expressly for their families.
These agreements, contracts, or pledges, cover the gamut of 21st Century digital world behavior, from cell phones, to online access, to texting, web 2.0, social media, cyber-bullying, and digital citizenship.
The conversation and preparation that contribute to developing a family agreement or contract are often more important than the final document. In these family discussions, parents will need to arm themselves with information about digital natives, address values, and encourage common sense. Parents will also need to help their children think about what to do in unexpected situations, and encourage them to speculate on how to cope with friends who encourage them to misbehave. The more personal and relevant the agreement, the better.
Then, too, adults should understand that the preparation and writing process is not a one-way street. A child may make a pointed observation or come up with a thoughtful idea about the digital issues contained in the agreement. Perhaps he or she feels strongly about certain types of access, time limits, or other parental expectation. Maybe there are compelling reasons to grant access to one site or another, even though the parent has reservations.
Sometimes children have a better sense of the digital landscape than their parents do, so listening is critical. As a result of back-and-forth conversation, a parent may decide to adjust the agreement, taking the child’s perspective into consideration.
NewFamilyNews, a blog authored by Anne Collier, discusses the fast-paced, life-changing digital landscape, offering parents lots of information about research and the changing lives of their children. Collier’s blog gives readers the big picture with a focus especially on how learning is changing in the digital world. A 2011 post on my blog, Kids’ Cell Phones: Who’s in Charge Here?, describes some of the give-and-take the occurs when families consider what to include in a contract, and the post links to a PDF of a cell phone contract that I wrote for families in my school.
Blogger Susan Lucille Davis, who recently published A Letter to Parents of Digital Age Students on the Getting Smart blog, focuses on what parents can do to help their children become smart and savvy consumers of information.
Below is my list of well-written contracts and agreements as well as sites that address important topics for parents to include if an agreement is written from scratch.
- Get NetWise – Tools and Contracts (organized by age)
- SafeKids.com – Family Contract Information for Online Safety
- Safe Surfing Kids – Online Rules and Agreements
- American Academy of Pediatrics – SafetyNet Resources for Parents
- Common Sense Media – Family Media Agreements
- MediaTechParenting – Cell Phone Contract and 9 Family Digital Citizenship Tips
- Kim Komando – 10 Commandments for Kids Online
- NetSmartz – Internet Safety Pledges
- Federal Trade Commission – OnGuard Online Just for Parents
- Anne Collier’s NetFamily News
- Janet Burley Hoffman’s Huffington Post piece, To My 13-Year-Old , An iPhone contract From Your Mom, With Love
- You can also check out these links on my Contracts and Agreements page.