Monday, March 16, 2015

Our Family's Technology Contract

Now that Eliza is twelve and is out and about more with activities and babysitting for other families, we decided it was time for her to have a phone. And at the same time, we realized that some of the phone/tablet rules we set up when Ashton and Isaac first got phones hadn't been discussed for quite some time. So last night, Jared and I sat down with our three oldest and went over the "Technology Contract" we drew up a couple years ago. It was a great discussion. And I thought I'd share our family's contract here in case it's helpful to anyone else who's trying to navigate this new world of raising teenagers in a world where most kids carry around a phone and have instant access to so many things right in their pocket.

We had such a good discussion. The kids traded off reading the points in the contract and we talked about each one. It was a great chance to talk about how much we love and trust them and want to help them enjoy the great benefits of technology without having it cause them problems.

Jared and I are still figuring out our own boundaries with technology. It's so easy to give in to the desire to check a text or an email at the dinner table or look down at my phone while one of the kids is telling me something. We've got to figure all this out along with our children. And I think it helped them to hear that we're all going to figure this out together.

The following contract started from a contract that my sister Shawni posted on her blog ages ago - and she got it from someone else - and we added a lot of our own stuff. I finally found the original source (thanks to a helpful blog reader!) - here it is: To My 13-Year-Old: An iPhone Contract, With Love. 

Dear Children,

You are the proud users of technology we never dreamed of having when we were your age! You are good and responsible children and we WANT you to have these things.

But as with many things in your life, as your parents, we feel the need to present some rules and regulations because we adore you. We have been around a little longer than you have. We have seen the marvels of all this great technology and we are so grateful for it! But we have also noticed a gradual decline of old-fashioned communication that we feel is so very important for your spirit and your general development. So we’d like to introduce you to some rules and regulations we are establishing in our home.

Please read through the following contract. We hope that you understand it is our job to raise you into well-rounded, healthy young individuals that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. You may be mad at us for a while about some of these things. You have enjoyed some great technological freedom which you have not abused very much and we are proud of you for that. But we feel the need to train you (as we train ourselves) to not let technology take over in our family or with your friends.

Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your technology freedom.

We love you with all our hearts and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the years to come.

  1. In general, every cell phone, computer, tablet, etc. in our home is a family technology device. We, your parents, have bought these things. We paid for them. We are loaning them to you with the understanding that you will act responsibly.
  2. If you’d like to purchase your own technological device, talk to us about what you’d like to purchase and why. We reserve the right to say no to purchases that we feel will be detrimental to you or to our family. All rules here apply to all devices used in our home whether they were purchased by us or by you.
  3. If you choose to put a password on your devices down the road, we will always know the password. That includes online (e.g. email, social, etc. accounts). Mom and Dad may go through these items with you at various times so we can get a better feel for your lives. Mom will ask to see your texts quite a bit after school and Dad will ask to see your texts every week in his weekly interview with you. We ask that you do not delete any texts until we've had a chance to glance over them. We do this to help you learn appropriate communication skills and be more "in the loop" about what is going on in your life.
  4. Technology devices are primarily tools to accomplish tasks (which can also include entertainment). Every time you get on the computer or TV or a phone or a tablet, you need to have a specific thing that you want to accomplish in mind (it can be a fun thing!). Don’t waste time watching or reading stuff that isn’t particularly interesting to you. Life is too short to waste time just channel surfing or surfing the internet.
  5. Technological tools are not meant to be the only resource for research, entertainment, and communication. Read books. Play games. Go on bike rides. Hang out and chat with your cool parents and siblings.
  6. Limit your time and use technology wisely. We will work with you to determine an appropriate amount of time for you to spend on the things you’d like to do in front of a screen. If you’re not able to control your time, we will have to enforce strict limits for you. We would much rather NOT have to police every little thing you do with technology. The more you prove that you can be trusted with technology, the more we will trust you.
  7. We ask that you do all non-technology tasks BEFORE asking to do tasks involving technology.
  8. Computers are only to be used in common areas. They are not to be used in your bedrooms. Tablets can be taken in your bedroom with permission only.
  9. No texting, emailing or using phones after bedtime.
  10. Pay attention to your teachers at school and at church. Work hard on assignments. Fill your brains with knowledge. NO phones in classrooms and phones must be turned off at lunch. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It's a life skill.
  11. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone electronically that you would not say out loud with your parents in the room. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Censor yourself. 
  12. Remember that texting is for information exchange (like what time to meet where) but talking is for expressing feelings, discussing the pros and cons of where and when to meet and what to do, and handling relationship issues. It can take a long time and result in miscommunication when you try to communicate too much via text. A quick phone call or in-person chat can be much more effective.
  13. Do not text or look at your phone while you are with someone else in person. If you need to quickly text a parent to let them know where to pick you up or something like that, wait for a natural break in the conversation, excuse yourself, and quickly take care of the text. It is rude to text someone while talking to someone else. The person you're with in person should take presidence over others. The people you're not with who are trying to contact you via text or phone can wait until you're at a good stopping point in a conversation.
  14. These devices are not to be used while you have friends over. If you are with friends, you’re not sitting and staring at a screen together. An occasional interactive game is fine, but just watching people play on a computer isn’t how you interact with friends. The same rules apply when at a friend’s house. If we feel that there is too much time in front of screens happening at a friend's house and you don't feel comfortable suggesting alternative activities at that friend's house, we will likely want to have that friend come to our house instead of you going to that friend's house.
  15. At this point in the game, we reserve the right to be the only ones to give you permission to get any new apps, and programs. Please let us know if you want something new and why - even when it's a totally free app. We love to discuss these things with you and we mostly trust your judgement.
  16. No pornography or anything that gives you that sort of creepy feeling that comes from looking at something that doesn't see totally right to be looking at. Be sure you're only looking at information on the Internet that you'd honestly feel totally comfortable looking at if we were sitting beside you. Chances are great that at some point, you'll wind up seeing something inappropriate on the Internet. When that happens, close the window right away and come talk to us about it. If you have a question about anything, ask us...we know more than you think we do:)
  17. Do not take seductive or inappropriate pictures of yourself or anyone else - ever. Remember first and foremost that in our family we seek after goodness and want to shine our light to others. Remember also that cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. Be careful what you put there. It is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear--including a bad reputation and hurt feelings.
  18. If a technological device falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It very well may happen, you should be prepared.
  19. Turn off technology and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).
  20. In addition to the music you love, download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons. And share your favorite music with us!
  21. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then - there are great options on your phone and it's great to use your phone to exercise your brain. Be sure you're also playing board games and non-technology-based games with lots of human interaction.
  22. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Look out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to people face to face. Wonder without googling.
  23. At dinner time, Family Home Evening, and other family time, there’s no looking at screens.  
  24. Most importantly, remember that your spirit is the most important thing you have. Don’t let technology cramp your wonderful spirit. Don’t ever let your phone or technology seep into your relationship with your Heavenly Father. The noise of technology is quick to make us all think looking at a screen is more important than talking, especially to Heavenly Father. Make a practice to read your scriptures before you check texts or Facebook in the morning. Pray first as well.
  25. You will mess up. We’ll probably have to take away your technology rights at times. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. We are always learning. We are on your team. We are in this together.

It is our hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply only to phones, computers, or gadgets, but to life in general. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine.

We love you forever.

Mom and Dad

P.S. I did a Power of Moms Radio episode with Ashton and Isaac where we talked about this contract and technology in general - you can click here to listen.


Heidi said...

What great thoughts- thanks!

Diane said...

I've read your blog for years and hardly ever comment but really wanted to say THANK YOU for posting this contract!! Great advice to all the parents out there!!!

bjahlstrom said...

This is a GOOD ONE!

Linda said...

Great job Saren and Jared!. The best part is engaging the kids in the plan so they know exactly what is expected!

genki_wave said...

Hi! I think this is the original source: Love your version too! Thanks for all you do -- I love Power of Moms. :)

Unknown said...

Genki:Thanks so much for finding that source! I'll add the link to my post.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerstin said...

For the most part I like the contract and unfortunately you would take away my phone because of nr. 4 quite often. I dislike nr. 3 however. While I realise that you want to watch out for your kids, I also think it's important to teach them to respect privacy. Did you think about this?


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