With every new challenge we take on in life, there is an expectation set before the venture begins. Elementary, middle, and high schools have a handbook to follow. There are expectations about attendance, academics, and behaviors. Often parents and students have to sign and return a form confirming that they reviewed the school handbook at the beginning of the year. College classes have a course outline. A new job has a job description that both the potential employee and employer understand and agree to before hiring. A marriage has wedding vows that are based in a lifetime commitment.  Society has laws that we must follow in order to maintain a safe and healthy community.

I believe it’s important to have expectations outlined before allowing a young person to have access to any form of technology. It’s my opinion that one of the most important parts of giving a youth access to technology “setting expectations” doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I also believe that the lack of setting expectations isn’t always due to a purposeful disregard, but as a result of not knowing everything that could be discussed.

With all of the different devices, apps, and social media platforms available, it’s understandably easy to get lost in how to have that conversation.

Over the years I’ve seen various forms of contracts people have devised to use with their youth related to technology. I’ve seen some really cool and fun ways to engage kids with this discussion.

Everybody has a different approach and all of the basics are there (privacy settings, stranger danger etc). With my background as a mental health counselor, I wanted to take my own approach on a contract for youth; I wanted to develop a contract from a developmental psychology foundation. After all, our youth is developing psychologically different in this world of tweets, texts, and snaps.

The youth has the ability to use technology, but they lack the developmental wisdom to use it wisely; since I want a contract suited to that, I constructed a contract for adults to use that will help guide the conversation and set the expectations.

It has been developed with two separate parts. Part one: “The Conversation” will help you guide the conversation with your child related to the developmental psychology of introducing technology to a youth. It is designed to start the discussion of how you want technology to be a part of your child’s life.

It can be used in various ways:

  • You can read this with your child and discuss topics as you go. Be sure to fill in your own experiences to enhance its meaning in your family.
  • You can have your child read it and then have a conversation with them about your family’s expectations.
  • You can read this before you talk to your child and present them with the contract as an outline for your discussion.

Modify this to fit your family needs. Use fun recollections from your experiences as a family.  The idea is to have a conversation about how technology is going to fit into your child and family’s life.

Part two: “The Terms for Technology” is the list of expectations related to the device. It outlines what you expect, what will happen if rules are not followed, and what to do when they need help as a result of what they find online. Admittedly, it’s a long and detailed list and will probably take about twenty minutes to go over with your child. But based upon the hours-per-day that your child may be using the device,  spending twenty minutes setting expectations to prevent future mistakes is a great return on investment. This section is not a concrete list. It’s a detailed guide. Edit and adjust it to meet your needs. Make it fit your family’s expectations.

I hope you find this contract useful for your family.

The more work we do on the prevention side, the less problems we will have on the intervention side.

~Ryan


Part One: The Conversation

Part Two: The Terms