Technology Contracts Help Keep Kids Safe Online


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Families generally run more smoothly with effective rules, so it's no surprise parents want to establish rules about how kids use technology. Unfortunately, rules don't last long online. A rule that seemed perfectly reasonable yesterday may be outdated (and easy to ignore) tomorrow. In such a rapidly evolving environment, many parents are turning to something more flexible: contracts they write — and rewrite — with their children.

The "technology contract" likely to work best in your household will, of course, depend on the ages and inclinations of your kids. Regardless of age, here are some potential questions to consider:

What interactive devices are used? You'll want different rules for cellphones, tablets, computers and gaming systems. If family members share equipment, you may need to establish priorities. Homework, for example, should take precedence over games and social media. Your contract can also specify how you will share interactive experiences. Will you play games together? Share videos? Create a shared album of favorite digital photos?

What kind of supervision makes sense? The right kind of supervision makes kids feel safer and reinforces a sense of conscience. Will you check phone bills for calls to numbers you don't recognize? Will you use monitoring software that alerts you if your child strays onto an adult website or sends out too much personal information? Be open about what you plan to do and why.

How much time should be spent online? Think about when it's OK or even necessary to be connected. When is important to be offline? As individuals? As a family?

What information are you willing to share online? What one person posts on a social media site often has implications for other family members, so it's important to discuss what can be shared online. Is it ever appropriate to post an address or phone number? How much are you willing to divulge about where you live, what you are doing and where your family vacations? When is it OK for parents to post pictures of kids and kids to post pictures of parents?

How will you keep your online system secure? You have rules about locking the door when you leave the house. Establish similar policies about online security. Is it ever OK to share passwords with anyone except parents? What are your house rules about downloading games, music and videos?

Who is allowed to purchase items online? Consider rules related to purchasing clothing, posters, virtual goods, games, music and books. Younger children should ask for permission to make any purchase. An online allowance may be appropriate for teens.

What kinds of online activity should kids report to parents? Being online involves trust since parents can't supervise kids the way they can in other settings. Establish the expectation that your child should come to you immediately if he or she encounters bullying, sexting or any kind of invitation from online strangers.

What are the penalties for breaking the contract? Losing access to a device is an obvious consequence (for adults as well as kids). Your contract might also include the possibility of additional monitoring for family members who don't follow the rules.

When will we renegotiate the contract? As kids demonstrate online responsibility, they should be able to earn new technology privileges.

Your kids (or spouse) might roll their eyes if you suggest drawing up a technology contract. But remember, the point of this exercise isn't necessarily to get something in writing. Instead, you want to have ongoing conversations that help you understand how your children are using technology. Only then can you make rules that will help your kids become as safe and responsible online as they are in the real world.

Sample Technology Contracts

Check templates available online if you'd like additional help creating a technology contract.  One of the documents at the following websites likely will prompt the conversations you need to customize your own contract.

American Academy of Pediatrics – Guidelines incorporate AAP policy. healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Media-Time-Family-Pledge.aspx

Common Sense Media – Three concise, easy-to-understand contracts designed for elementary, middle and high school students. commonsensemedia.org/educators/parent-media-education/family-media-agreements

Family Online Safety Institute – Two parallel contracts, one for kids and one for parents. fosi.org/images/stories/resources/family-online-safety-contract.pdf

Internet Safety Game Plan – A starter contract suitable for younger children. internetsafety.com/internet-monitoring-game-plan.php

Modern Parent – A simple one-page contract, written in plain language. themodernparent.net/an-internet-contract-for-families-teaching-our-kids-to-play-safe

SafeKids.com – Pledges for teens, younger children and parents. safekids.com/family-contract-for-online-safety

Carolyn Jabs raised three computer-savvy kids, including one with special needs. She has been writing a column about technology for 10 years and is working on a book about constructive responses to conflict.

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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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