Tech Talk, Part 2: Family Media Agreements

By Ms. Kirsten Bowles, Junior School Counsellor

In case you missed it, last week’s article focused on our children’s Tech Diet and the ways that different types of tech use affect neurochemical activity in our brains. We challenged ourselves to look honestly at tech consumption in our homes and to make a plan for managing and balancing our digital lives.

Key to any child’s healthy digital experience is an agreement between parent and child on the rules and shared understanding of technology usage. Having a plan that outlines expectations is a natural first step in managing a number of issues, which include developmentally appropriate tech for different ages and stages, rules that accompany owning one's own phone, and essential communication between child and parent around interests and issues as they arise.

Common Sense Media is an excellent resource for parents and children on all things related to digital media. This source reviews and rates books, TV, movies, apps and games, providing detailed information and guidance for parents on issues of suitability and safety. They also suggest family media agreements, or contracts, for managing what kids do, how much time they spend doing it, and whether content choices are age-appropriate. See a no-nonsense sample here.

If your child has been cruising along without a contract (whether through calm or choppy waters), it’s not too late to design a family media agreement. For older children who may be resistant to interception of their digital lives, involve them in the planning process and elicit their input. Invite their insights into how all family members in the home (including you!) can seek balance in media use. Full of humour but also wisdom, this contract is a playful approach to guiding cell phone use for older children.

See you next week, when we take a look at some of the key questions to ask yourself and your child before considering giving them their own phone.