The kids will be starting school in no time at all if they haven’t started already! As you are doing your back to school shopping, you may be considering getting a phone for your child. You want them to be able to get a hold of you if their sports practice gets canceled early, or they are hanging out with their friends and they need to be picked up. Most new devices are purchased during back to school and the holidays.
Before you hand over that brand new device for your child, you should sit down with them and discuss the rules that will go along with the device. Even better, you could sit down with them and create your own device contract that is customized to your rules and needs.
Device contracts should include:
The first paragraphs of the contract should explain the purposes of the smartphone, why you are giving it to them, who actually owns the phone (the parents) and the consequences of breaking any of the rules in the contract. This explanation should set the expectations that will go along with having the device.
The next section should clarify what kinds of parental controls and device management will be in place on the device. Be clear about how you will be monitoring them. Let them know that at any time you can request the device to check up on them manually. Tell them how much free time they will have, and what apps will be always available on the device. Show them the reports you will be checking up on like what YouTube videos they are watching and search history. Being upfront and honest with them about how you will be controlling and monitoring the device can help establish a trust between you. They know what you will be doing, and you won’t be sneaking around behind their back.
Set Ground Rules for Specific Smartphone Functions
- Apps – Newly downloaded apps will need a parent’s manual approval before they are allowed to be used. This lets the parents research the app before the child can use it. Also, set up a rule for in-app purchases, and app purchases. Will they be allowed? If so, how much can they spend per month? Explain that there will be time limits imposed on specific apps like social media and games.
- Web Browsing – Establish a rule that searches will always be appropriate, and they will not look for content that is for adults only. This might not just be limited to pornography, but could include gambling, violence and other content deemed unfit for children in your household.
- Camera – All photos that are taken with the phone also need to be appropriate. This would also include photos taken within apps like Snapchat and screenshots.
- Messaging & Texting – Messages that are sent and received on the device will only take place during appropriate hours of the day. Children need their sleep, and should not be messaging with their friends at all hours of the night. There should also be something in here about communicating with friends while driving if they are over 16.
Establish Your Part
Since this is a contract, there should be some sort of middle ground where both parties have requirements. This contract is no different. The end of the contract should include what you, as the parent, will agree to. You can include things like a promise to not over-react when your child comes to you to tell you about something that happened. Whether they came across pornography accidentally or a friend sent them something inappropriate, they will not be punished for these things as long as they tell you about it first.
You can also include something about how you promise to learn about the technology and apps they are using to help them make good decisions on their devices. As you take the time to learn what your child is doing on their device, it may even help you grow closer together.
Sign the Contract
Once you have all the pieces in place, and you have discussed each part of the contract it is time for both of you to sign it. With both of your signatures in place, you can start the teenaged smartphone ownership phase on the right foot.
It’s Not Too Late
If you are past the stage of handing over a device for your child, it’s not too late to establish this contract! Going back to school is the perfect time to establish new rules as you get back into a more routine life.