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How to Set Digital Media Rules for Your Kids

Setting and enforcing rules with kids can be tough online just like it is offline. To simplify matters, try drafting a “digital media” contract using the following tips:

1. Directly involve your kids

Let’s be honest–everyone wants to be heard. Give your kids a chance to suggest rules and consequences that they think are acceptable. Ask, “what do you feel is an appropriate amount of time to spend using digital media each day?” and “what do you think we should do if you break this rule?” For younger children, you may need to define digital media (i.e. TV, computer, video games, etc). Even if their suggestions are unreasonable, listen carefully.Then, ask that they listen to you as you explain your thoughts on the matter.

2. Both you and your kids should benefit from the bargain

One of the basic principles of contract law is that there must be “consideration.” In other words, both parties need to receive something from the bargain. Try to establish rules that are a win-win. At very least remember to compromise so that both you and your kids are happy with the outcome.

3. Write it out

Ultimately, you want to end the conversation with a written contract. For an example of possible contracts, look below.

4. Sign and Hang Up

The last step of the conversation should be for you and your kids to sign the document. Hang it up in a conspicuous location (perhaps by the computer and/or TV). Your signatures on the contract will be a constant reminder of your commitment to one another. (Click to tweet)

Sample Contract

Note this contract is for elementary aged children, tweak accordingly for older children

The child agrees to….

  • Recognize that using these devices is a privilege
  • Only use _______ (computer/TV/etc) for ____ amt of time per day
  • When online, not give out personal information including address, birthday
  • Share passwords with parents and no one else
  • Tell parents if he or she encounters something inappropriate or that makes him or her feel uncomfortable

In exchange, the parent agrees to…

  • Allow the use of _______(computer/TV/etc) during the agreed amt of time
  • Before saying “no,” talk to me about why they are worried
  • Recognize that digital media is important to me, even if they can’t relate
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