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Create a customized family media agreement

Published: November 3, 2023

Family media agreement Family media agreement

There are many unique challenges to raising kids in the 21st century. Figuring out how to manage kids’ use of screens is arguably one of the biggest. How many of you out there feel a little lost – or completely hopeless – when trying to manage devices in your house? The answer: Create a family media agreement.

The Family Media Agreement

I’m not the first one to give this advice, but it’s so good it should be repeated as much as possible. A good first step towards getting a handle on your family’s screen habits is to create a family media agreement.

The family media agreement is the gold standard for creating an intentional approach to media and digital technology for a number of reasons. Ideally, a well-crafted family media agreement should:

  • Help get everyone thinking about the positive and negative aspects of their use of screens.
  • Define what the worries and concerns are, both for parents, and for kids.
  • Define what the benefits are, both for parents and for kids
  • Help provide a clear structure for expectations and guidelines.
  • Clearly lay out some consequences for what happens when guidelines aren’t followed or expectations not met.

Smart phone

Best practices

Make it a collaborative process

Kids will be more likely to adhere to the guidelines you set if they’re part of the process of setting those guidelines.

Even young kids can contribute in small ways. Let them speak up about what using screens means to them. Do they have a favorite show that they’d really like to see? What’s their favorite app? And just as you do with other decisions, give them a few options when and where it’s possible. Would they rather have screen time as soon as they come home from school or right before dinner?

Older kids will get to have more say. In addition to the discussions about what content and when, include them in talk about what they think would be fair. Ask them what they think the consequences should be if the rules are broken.

Revisit on a regular basis

Things will change – and quickly! Ideally the agreement is a document that changes, that gets revisited, hashed out differently, discussed and updated when needed. One day your kid is a toddler watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and before you know it, she’s a tween asking for her own phone. Not only do your kids grow up and as they do, their needs change, but technology changes too. What kinds of guidelines do you have around using generative AI tools for example?

And follow through!

Sure it seems obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth a reminder: You set the guidelines. If you don’t follow them, then what was the point? If a behavior warrants a consequence, dish it out! If you promised access to their favorite game as long as their homework was finished, don’t nag them when they choose to play the video game rather than read a book (or whatever activity you, deep down, would prefer they do).

When the family media agreement gets messy

Here’s the reality for many of us though: the follow through part is actually a lot more than making simple choices to honor what the agreement says.Unfortunately, screens permeate our lives in so many ways, there are just so many gray areas that make this process really quite difficult.

Want a challenge? Take one of the free family media agreement templates available – and there are some really great ones out there! Customize it as much as you can. Start using it. How much time goes by before you run into a circumstance you hadn’t anticipated? How long does it take for you to encounter a circumstance of 21st century life with screens that you hadn’t set a clear guideline for? If your kids are young you might have a bit longer than you do if your kids are older. But it’ll happen to all of us sooner or later.

What happens when your kid has friends over? What about your kids’ friends’ devices? What about video chatting with grandparents? What about using the device for schoolwork? How do you make sure you know when they’re using the device to do homework vs when they’re using it for other reasons? You set weekday mornings as a no screen time zone but is it okay for them to check their weather app before leaving for school? And what are your thoughts on generative AI tools?

Pretty soon things can get really messy.

Global Digital Mindful Family Media Agreements

The unfortunate reality is that there is no such thing as a one size fits all, set it and forget it family media agreement. Only you know the situations that come up again and again or the times when it’s the hardest to keep tabs on device usage. Only you know who your kids are, what they might need, and what they’ll respond to best. And even though you know that, you will never be able to anticipate every possible way that screens can be a part of your family’s life.

There are so many decisions parents have to make today that they never had to make before.

What’s the solution?

Family in natural wood like setting

A simple, customized family media agreement is absolutely hands down the best place to start. There are many great templates that you can use for inspiration. And as long as it continues working for you, more power to you!

If you’re running into points of confusion, For others, though the starting point is clear, the staying power isn’t as clear cut. It’s in this digital space where it’s especially important to be mindful about what you’re doing, what your challenges are, and what your ultimate goals are. Be intentional about creating opportunities, and also about setting limits. And always keep your big picture in mind – it’ll help guide you when the details get confusing.

If you’re interested in finding out more, get in touch!