A few months ago, my youngest daughter who is 12 started begging my wife and I to get on SnapChat (now Snap) because all of her friends were on it. Big sigh. We had already been through this two times before with her older sisters but it seemed like every year the age when this was requested was younger and younger. The “you have to be 13 to join” excuse didn’t work. All of her friends were under 13. We had preached our usual “social media can be dangerous when you are young” but it fell on deaf ears and a mound of rebuttals. After several weeks, she was truly wearing us down (shhh, don’t tell her). So my wife decided that if our daughter were to get Snap, she would have to write a contract which would need to have a list of CONSEQUENCES if we caught her “violating the rules.” And she would have to sign it. Queue the link/click bait…you won’t believe what happened next! (Haha)
Well, she wrote out the contract and all of her own, decided-upon consequences. She signed it. But then after just an hour after the ink dried, she rescinded her own contract, claiming it was too harsh and she would rather wait. Chalk up a minor victory to my wife here!
There are several reasons why I tell this story. For one, I try to write about kids, parenting and social media a lot. I have a living classroom (or laboratory) for all of this stuff. I’m no expert on any of this (my wife is far more attuned to all aspects of parenting and social media than I am). But I do try to boil down things that work (at least for us) and share it. My primary advice is always – have a conversation WITH your kids, don’t just dictate AT them. And while I have written some negative and positive content about social media and kids, this is the Wild West folks. The rules are still being invented! I’ve even written some Social Media Policies for Families.
Really though, any rules you make with your children should be groundwork for open discussions. That’s why I was intrigued when I was contacted by LifeLock about a site they have created with the National PTA called “TheSmartTalk.org.” (In full disclosure, this is a sponsored article – but, I truly like their approach to building towards open discussion between parents and children about online activity – so much so, I happily agreed to write this!)
TheSmartTalk.org – An Interactive Contract for Discussion
TheSmartTalk.org site is a carefully constructed, well thought out, interactive and engaging site that not only allows you to craft a contract between parents and kids on all things digital/social, it is also a great medium for starting and/or continuing discussion around the important topic of being digital citizens. And, honestly, I believe it is important for parents to understand these rules well, because I have seen so many mistakes done by adults as well. And guess what, kids watch our every move and they often copy our actions – good or bad!
I won’t walk through each and every step along the way. It’s important for families to experience it themselves. Filling out the contract can literally take just a few minutes, but honestly, I don’t recommend that you race through it. It really is, in my opinion, a tool to get that conversation between parents and children going. You can, conceivably, talk about each and every point on it. There may be items that are not relevant to your situation and there may be some you never thought about.
You start by choosing the Topics you want in the contract (or you want to discuss). The topics are:
- Safety & Privacy
- Screen Time
- Social Media & Respect
- Apps & Downloads
- Texting & Calling
I would recommend choosing all of these actually, but again, it depends on your kids, their ages, and their activities.
Then you name the child and the parent who will be on TheSmartTalk.org contract. I took a shortcut and just put in “kids” and me. But you could do one for each child.
Once you name yourselves, you start going through a series of questions in the form of checklists or yes/no items. If you selected all of the topics, you will have quite a few items to go through.
Within each section, there are actually areas for additional conversation. For example when talking about passwords, there is a “Bonus Talk” about choosing good passwords and links to additional information.
Work through all of the sections and questions. Be honest with the discussions and decisions on TheSmartTalk.org items as they actually are quite important.
Once you reach the end of the agreement, you are ready to print and sign it. This is a great last step that “formalizes” things between the parent and child and makes it official. Print it out, sign it, and hang it up somewhere. And TheSmartTalk.org actually recommends you review or renew the contract periodically. Kids grow older and they want to do more with their devices and on social media.
Below is a sample from the Safety & Privacy section to give you an idea of the final product.
So, there you have it. Not only do you have great, fun tool with TheSmartTalk.org site, but you also have a structured method to have the serious discussion with your kids about Internet, Social Media and Device Safety. Take some time on the weekend to go through this with your child/children. You won’t regret it and while it is indeed “screen time,” it is also important “family time!”
Disclosure Text : This is a sponsored post and I have received compensation in the form of a service. All opinions within this article, unless otherwise noted, are my own and are not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. More information can be found in my About page.
HTD says: I have always said you need to have regular, open dialogs with your kids about online and digital safety. TheSmartTalk.org truly helps you get that conversation going!