Summertime is here and for our kids that means lazy mornings, afternoons by the pool, and late nights outside catching fireflies. Unfortunately, our sons and daughters also spend these carefree and unstructured days consuming hours and hours of screen time to ward off boredom.
Whether it is scrolling social media on their phones, playing videogames, or binge watching Netflix, our kids spend an average of 9 hours everyday looking at some type of screen and during summer vacation this number is more than likely to grow.
As parents, that number is jaw dropping. By doing a little simple math, we quickly realize that our kids are spending around 63 hours a week staring at a screen! That is more than most people spend at work or in school. To make matters worse, we can calculate that our kids easily spend roughly 3,276 hours every year behind a digital device of some kind.
The shear amount of media consumption and inactivity is cause for alarm, but our boys’ and girls’ love of all things digital can also invite hidden dangers into their lives.
As our children mindlessly click and swipe away the hours of summer vacation, they might encounter inappropriate content, cyberbullying, phishing, online predators, identity thieves, sexting, and more. These common media pitfalls have the potential to harm our children’s wellbeing, health, and even future employment or relationships.
Thankfully, the solution to our problems can be simple. As a family, we can create a summer vacation technology contract.
Creating A Summer Vacation Technology Contract
Most people cringe when they hear the word contract. However, it is important to realize that this document can prevent a lot of heartache, arguments, and slammed doors down the road. It is basically a written agreement clearly laying out all the expectations and consequences for technology use among family members. When used correctly, technology contracts actually increase communication within the family, empowers our kids to safely use media, and reduces the likelihood they will encounter problems this summer.
The following 10 suggestions can help us create the ideal summer family technology contract:
- Sit down as a family unit in a calm setting and write the contract together. Listen to everyone’s ideas and concerns, making sure to include expectations for how parents and children will use technology and media.
- Make sure to use calm language, avoid name calling, and blaming. Our ultimate goal is to support each other and find common ground for media and technology use.
- Consider limiting the amount of time allowed for media. Technology isn’t always bad and can be beneficial in a variety of ways. Before outlawing screen time all together, make it a rule that family members should finish a set chore list, read, go outside, or accomplish an activity before they turn on their devices for the day.
- Make sure to begin an ongoing conversation about social media etiquette and the permeability of the Internet. Make sure our children understand how words can hurt and how images posted online can damage reputations for years to come. Discuss the news, headlines, and other relevant topics as needed to help prepare children for living in a digital world.
- Include a section about how technology use is a privilege and one that can be taken away. If someone fails to maintain their end of the technology contract, don’t be afraid to remove access to their devices.
- Clearly label all expectations. Often, parents and children have different definitions for what constitutes bullying, inappropriate behaviors, and oversharing. Reduce any confusion by writing definitions and examples of what is and isn’t allowed.
- Don’t forget to include your rules for using cellphones while driving, during meals, and at social events. It’s easy to overlook these common situations, because we automatically assume our kids should know the rules. However, they can’t learn something they were never taught. Many of our kids have a FOMO (fear of missing out) which can make it difficult to silence their phones if they aren’t instructed to do so.
- Remember to tell children that they should only accept friend requests or invites from people they know. It is always best to avoid friending strangers, even if they are friends of friends.
- People should never share passwords- even with their BFF’s. The only people who should have access to a child’s accounts are parents and then it should only be used for emergency situations.
- Include a section on sexting. This act is now deemed a normal part of adolescence, but it can quickly lead to extortion, cyberbullying, and even prosecution for possessing or distributing child pornography. Let them know that they should avoid sending any provocative photos and to refuse sext requests.
What suggestions do you have for creating the ideal family summer vacation technology contract?