After the December holidays, lots of digital kids are using new digital devices.
Each new digital gadget requires that parents update or introduce a family digital device action plan — akin to the rules-of-the-road that are so critical to new drivers.
These days flashy new smartphones, iPads, iPod Touches, music players, computers, laptops, notebooks, and video games are connected in some way to the exciting, but rough and tumble world of the Internet. Sometime during the first week of gadget ownership parents and children need to sit together and review digital behavior and expectations.
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.
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