When I got my driver’s license, my dad scratched out a hand-written contract (of sorts) that outlined what I committed to doing and not doing behind the wheel.
Writing and adapting ideas from several sources,* I put together the same kind of thing for my kids, but this time for navigating the wonder and gravity of the technology that they are confronted with all the time.
Like the driving agreement, the real power of this is not as a “contract,” but as a spark for good conversation about being purposeful with work and play in a screen-saturated age.
Below you’ll see the contract, and here is a downloadable .pdf version:
Our family chooses to be tech-wise
I, __________, understand that devices like phones, iPads, and computers are privileges. And, along with my parents, I commit to establishing structured limits: in quantity, frequency, and moral character.
Devices and the Internet are tools for learning and entertainment
- If it’s not something that I would be comfortable reading or watching on TV together with my parents, then it’s not something that I’ll read or watch on my device.
- When I have questions about a particular site, video, or app, I’ll ask my parents.
- I won’t download apps, music, or video without first seeking my parents’ permission.
- I understand that much of what is online is false or only partly true. With the guidance of my parents, I will seek information from trustworthy sources. And I will think critically about what I encounter.
Devices and the Internet are tools to communicate
- When I’m tempted or curious about something, rather than using my device to ask about it, I’ll ask my parents or another trustworthy Christian adult. Google and Facebook (and all the rest) don’t care about me. My parents do!
- If a person or company that I don’t know contacts me online (apps, phone, texts, emails, facebook, etc.) I’ll let my parents know, just like I would if any stranger tried to contact me.
- If I receive anything online that is hurtful or makes me feel uncomfortable, I’ll tell my parents right away, just like I would if someone was hurtful or made me feel uncomfortable in person.
- If I wouldn’t say it in person, I won’t say it online. My words, photos, and anything else that I send or post will be kind, and I will seek the best for others.
- I will never share any personal information (like address, age, phone number, school, etc.) on my device without first asking my parents.
- Before I send or post anything, I’ll ask myself, “Would I want this on the front page of the Chicago Tribune tomorrow morning?” If not, I won’t send it.
Devices and the Internet are tools for work and play
- I understand that the time I had planned to get work done can be suddenly wasted on Facebook, chatting, watching YouTube clips, or a zillion other things. I will use device time purposefully.
- I won’t sleep with my devices in my room or use them after bedtime. And I won’t turn to them first thing in the morning. They’re great, but far less so than real life with my real friends and real family.
- If my parents ask me to put a device away, I will do so without complaining.
- I commit to going completely screen-free on a daily (at least one hour), weekly (one day), and annual (one week) basis.
My parents — and God, who is my heavenly parent — love me so much that there’s nothing that I can do online or offline to make them love me more or to make them love me less. This is so incredible that sometimes it’s hard to understand or believe! But it’s true.
This kind of love means that our family looks out for and wants the best for one another.
*Rule of Life, The Tech-Wise Family, Ourpact and Covenant Eyes. I chose not to put things in quotation marks with footnotes because it made for a less distracting document to talk through with my kids. But I want to acknowledge that a few lines are copied almost verbatim from Rule of Life and Ourpact. Covenant Eyes gave me the idea for “content, communication, and clock.” The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch provided the overall inspiration, although nothing is quoted directly from it (unless it was unintentional).