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Smartphone Family Contracts—A Must for Kids and Parents

Tuesday October 9, 10:17 pm UTC by in Home

You’ve come to terms with all the complaining, harassing, begging (and maybe
even crying) and finally you’ve decided that the time is right to get your child a mobile phone of their own. Hurray! At last you’ll be able to keep in touch all through the day, and there’s the added benefits of games for those waiting times in restaurants where distraction is a blessing. But before you take off the shrink-wrap, there are some important ground rules to cover.


At the start, it’s good to have a family conversation that includes everyone (whether they have a phone or not). Talking with everyone gives the whole family an opportunity to talk about the kinds of behaviors you expect, and how to achieve them. Together you can build a Family Contract that reflects the gold standards you will all understand, and everyone can sign it. Talk through issues such as the amount of data they are approved to use, sites and people that are approved by you, phone etiquette in social situations and at home (no phones at the dinner table!), and importantly, taking good care of the phone itself. There’s a kind of official serious overtone in getting the family to sign a

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contract, and you underscore that when even the parents sign it too. When parents sign the contract too, they demonstrate both their commitment to the goals of the contract as well as their respect for it and their children. Big win!


However, your child is only a very small part of the equation. You can’t get everyone on the Internet to sign the contract. We see and hear lots of frightening stories in mainstream media of bullying and adult predators. Unfortunately they exist, but with awareness and a good strategy, you can help your child recognize a worrying situation. Rule number one in our house is: “If something or someone makes you unsure or uncomfortable in any way, tell us right away, before you do anything.” Make sure you include something like this in your Family Contract. Reiterating this guiding principle allows you to reassure your child that this situation might happen to them, and that it’s okay to speak to you about it when it does. When they do come to you, don’t be dismissive or overreact. Remember to thank and reward them – that’s behavior you want to see happen!


It’s a little ironic that a technology meant to improve access to communication may result in your child communicating with you less and with others more. If you and your children work together on some ground rules, and include apps such as NQ Family Guardian, you’re going to be equipped for success!

Jo White

Jo is a PhD student studying technology, media, and society at the University of Colorado and a mom of four children, aged 12-21. Her popular blog, Mediamum.net, looks at all the challenges of being a Chief Everything Officer in a busy tech-savvy family.

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