Creating a family media agreement

Establishing rules for Internet and technology use at home

A family media agreement can help parents establish or re-establish rules and guidelines on the use of technology such as:

  • How many hours a day can be spent at the computer, tablet, or playing video games?
  • Are social media sites allowed – and if so, which ones?
  • Is computer laptop use permitted behind closed doors or must it be done in high-traffic areas?
  • Are mobile devices allowed in bedrooms overnight?
  • Are any particular websites off-limits?
  • What information can be or shouldn’t be shared online?

A media agreement is also a great way to start a conversation about internet safety and to decide on and communicate consequences from the start so there are no misunderstandings. Here are a few quick tips and questions to ask when setting up a family media agreement.

How are we doing as a family with our use of media?

This gives kids the opportunity to tell their parents, "Well, we see you using media all the time," whether it's texting, emailing or reading on a device. It can sometimes be alarming and illuminating for parents when their children hold up a mirror to their own behavior. It's important for parents to be accountable.

What should our rules be for use of media during the school week and weekend?

This question gives families the chance to talk about the importance of focusing technology use on schoolwork during the week. Depending on the family, the response might be that it's okay to use media for fun and entertainment after all homework is complete. For some families, the weekends and holidays give kids the opportunity to get their fill of media and get it out of their system. For other families, this type of free-for-all can present challenges for re-entry into the regular routine of the school week. It is up to each family and parent to figure out what is best, based on the needs and personalities involved.

What happens when something goes wrong, such as breaking a family agreement or doing something inappropriate with media?

It is critical to script these types of scenarios so youngsters understand that there might be consequences for breaking the agreement. The last thing families want to do is shut down the conversation when something goes wrong.

What happens when you visit a home with a different set of rules from your own?

This is one of the trickiest spots for parents to handle, and it’s the age-old issue of surrendering control of what children might be exposed to. One option is to call the friend's parents ahead of time to let them know where your family comfort level is. Another option is to say that each family has its own set of rules and guidelines, and that when you go to a different home, you need to abide by that family's rules, even if those rules do not coincide with your own family's rules.

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No matter what the end result of the agreement is, the most important thing is having the conversation as a family. Create your own family agreement or download these:
 
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