So much of my 11-year-old’s life is online these days.
She completes her schoolwork online. She manages her softball schedule from an app on her iPad. She plays Fortnite with her friends on our Nintendo Switch, and when she is cleaning her room she puts on a playlist she created herself on Apple Music. We’ve been looking in to a debit card for tweens so she can start learning how to manage her own money, and she will be able to monitor that account from the new phone she is begging for and will get before she enters middle school in the fall.
It’s easy to see how and why my tween spends so much time online. She loves to watch videos on TikTok and FaceTime her friends on Facebook Messenger. And I’m hardly one to talk. I can definitely kill some time viewing friends’ vacation photos on Facebook and discovering new brands on Instagram. I love a good thread on Reddit and shopping my favorite boutiques via apps or websites. I should probably be embarrassed to admit how many hours I’m capable of wasting online.
But not all time spend online is wasted! And I want my kiddo to know the balance. Yes, watch some silly videos on TikTok. Then, balance those TikTok hours with some time spent on DuoLingo learning another language or on a coding app learning how to code. I balance my hours spent on social media with hours spent researching and planning for our next family vacation or managing our family finances.
My kids are growing up in the digital age- there is no denying that. They don’t play dolls or board games the way I might have when I was a girl. I want my girls to appreciate technology, but I don’t want them going overboard. When they received iPads last Christmas, those iPads came complete with all sorts of parental controls. Every app they use has a time limit, and if they want more time once their daily allotment expires, they have to request more time. We only grant more time in exchange for a chore: vacuuming their bedrooms, unloading the dishwasher, putting away clean clothes, etc. We want the kids to understand that screen time is awesome, yes, but, like any good thing, there is a limit. I have to limit myself, too. I put my phone to sleep at 9:30 p.m. every night and don’t get back on until 6 a.m. each morning.
Tweens and Tech: The Contract
We have already warned our kiddos that any phone we buy them (and therefore pay for) will come complete with a set of rules, or a contract. Not because we are trying to be mean, strict parents, but because we want them to understand the balance between being present in their lives and being focused on the online world. We know it is easier to set rules from the beginning than to try to backtrack and add them after the fact.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, media devices are having negative effects on our kids’ lives. Devices are affecting how much kids sleep, how much they weigh and contributing to a number of behavioral issues. It is important to teach kids how to manage time spent online from an early age. A tech contract for any and all devices they have access to is a great place to start!
I’ve looked at tech contracts until I’ve gone cross-eyed, but here are my favorite (printable!) versions I’ve found to share with the kids, tweens and teens in your life:
Easy, printable tech contract that stipulates daily and weekend device usage limits.
Separate contracts for cell phones, computers, etc. because sometimes different devices need different rules.
Tech contracts from Common Sense Media broken down by age.
Smartphone pledge for kids and parents alike. Because the rules apply to mom and dad, too. Well, most the rules anyway!
Growing up in the digital age allows our kids to keep in touch with friends and family in a way that we weren’t able to as kids. But with this freedom comes responsibility, and it’s important to teach our kids boundaries and precautions from an early age.
What rules do you include that I may have missed? Share them with us!