If you’re like me, you’re a parent who struggles with the whole “kids + phone” thing. Scared that your child, who’s currently interested in the real world, makes eye contact, and doesn’t need to constantly check a phone to fill in the spaces of life, will disappear. That’s why John and I were secure in the decision that our kids would get a phone only when we needed them to have one.
More than half-way through 13, our son Nate jubilantly accepted his shiny new phone understanding that we, as his parents, needed to be able to get in touch with him more often. It was simply too cumbersome for him to schlepp around his iPad and he was growing tired of having to borrow his friends’ phones to talk or call us. Most importantly for Nate, he wanted to keep himself more organized by using a phone like his dad and I do. So one-day last spring we surprised him with an iPhone I had earned through an incentive with my work.
But first, we made him read and sign a phone use contract.
John and I included a whole bunch of written additions to one we found online to hopefully cover all the things we’re trying to protect him from. Nate was positively giddy as we discussed the terms. He had some good clarifying questions and proposed a couple of amendments, but, ultimately, signed on the dotted line—as did we—and he was officially a phone user.
In the eight months since, Nate has breached the terms of the contract just a few times, which resulted in him losing his phone for differing periods of time depending on the offense. The contract allowed us to have unemotional, black-and-white conversations when we could revisit the reasons for requirements in the contract and, more crucial, talk about the tools and habits that can help him tame technology instead of becoming a tech-addict. While Nate may have been frustrated as he said goodbye to his treasured sidekick for stretches, he certainly understood that he had violated terms he agreed to. And it didn’t lead to unproductive anger, slamming doors or any other scenario I feared discipline around phone use would lead to.
When I first posted on social about Nate and his new phone and the contract we made him sign, I was surprised by the number of cries of “I need that!” from other parents. So now that we’ve put the heavily edited contract into practice for a while, I wanted to create one for you that I wish we would’ve had from the beginning. The fully formed contract that we’ll use with Bebe when the time is right (she’s 11, so thankfully we’ve got a ways to go).
I think I captured everything you could possibly want in this sucker, but there may be some line items you’ll want to add or cross off completely. Even so, I know this will save you time and hopefully give you peace of mind that you’re doing what you can to promote a healthy relationship with technology and lead to the same unemotional, matter-of-fact conversations with your young phone user.
Whether you're about to start down this road with your child or trying to reset existing phone rules, download my Phone Use Contract for Kids here. And share this blog with other parents you know who could use a little help in this department--which is pretty much all of us.
(And speaking of using a little help, if you’ve got a downloadable fix for dealing with the mild heartaches that crop up from our boy/man shaving, sometimes choosing friends over family date night and embracing his budding independence, I'd be oh so grateful if you helped this mama out!)