So… my kids keep growing. (Believe me, I’ve tried squishing them from a variety of angles, but it doesn’t seem to be doing anything.) What this all means (aside from PUBERTY!) is their use of technology has grown and changed along with them. I’ve written about this before when my 8-year-old daughters inadvertently found the equivalent of techno-LEGO-porn and a very real (and very sexy) picture of Adam Levine while looking for song lyrics. (Yikes!) This is when I learned about setting restrictions.

The big transition into middle school has finally put conversations about smart phones, social media, online safety, in our lap. When my daughters were in 4th and 5th grade we gave them “dumb” phones. After I got cancer, my kids wanted a way to keep connected. We didn’t need anything fancy, so I bought them phones (LG Expression 2’s) which didn’t cost much. This worked out well, as their phones were perpetually misplaced, they forgot to charge them, etc. etc. etc. Nonetheless, these “training” phones were a good way to establish basics about texting (e.g. “When I text you, you text back.”) and gave them opportunities to practice personal responsibility with shiny new objects.

The Unexpected Perks of Talking about Tech

Additionally, as my girls grew more independent, it was pretty awesome to get more communication about their day. I tell you there is nothing that beats getting cute texts from your kids saying they love you. And, being able to chime in on sisterly spats was also pretty entertaining.

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When they finally got their own phones, I realized they didn’t grow up like me with a home phone. Thus, they hadn’t learned basic phone etiquette. Coaching their initial phone conversations with friends was quite amusing.

The conversations went something like this:

Daughter: (After dialing her best friend.) “Hi, It’s me.” (Looooong uncomfortable pause.)

Me: (In the background, whispering VERY LOUDLY) “Say your name! Say Hello! How are you doing? Is now a good time to talk?”

Daughter: “How are you?”(Another uncomfortable pause.)

Me: (still coaching, trying to be peppy) “Ask her what she’s up to. Tell her you were hoping she could come over sometime.”

Daughter: “What are you doing? My mom told me to call.”

Me: :/

You get the picture…

Family Technology Contract 2.0

Now that my girls are in 6th grade and I’m actually telling them to “Get off the phone!” (They grow up so fast…) When we finally broached the conversation about smart phones, I realized we needed to revisit our Family Tech Contract. Turns out, it is a pretty good document. Nonetheless, now that we are seeing some, shall we say, “inappropriate activity” in some of their friends social media feeds (!) it definitely needed some tweaks.

So, without any further ado. Here it is our NEW, revised tech contract.

Some things to remember…

snapchat-portraits

I know, I know, I look silly. Nonetheless, getting on SnapChat has been a great way to learn about social media with my girls. And, it’s helped us talk about social media use together.

Before I go, I’d like to share some lessons we’ve learned along the way. (And please feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!)

  1. Don’t be afraid to learn from your kids (and look silly doing it!) It’s important to establish a relationship of sharing and safe exploration. Do your best to stay up to date. Ask questions. Let your kids be the expert sometimes. I did and remember being shocked to learn about social media apps I hadn’t even heard of: Musically, Vine, Triller, and Kik, to name a few. (By the time you read this post, even these apps may be passé!) Learn with your tween/teen. Get online together to scout out and talk about potential pitfalls. And, who knows… you may even have FUN and get some cool new apps in the process!
  2. Don’t treat this contract like it’s written in stone. Make sure to talk with your WHOLE family about the “rules”, and make sure they apply to EVERYONE! In updating our contract together, my girls actually added some good ideas I didn’t even think about. Tech is always changing. Make your tech contract a living document and update it regularly.
  3. Define terms with your teen. Use your family tech contract to ensure you are talking bout the same thing. For example, my daughters and I had to define “Screentime” as anything non-educational: video games, social media apps, YouTube, etc. Doing computer research for homework doesn’t count.
  4. Don’t make assumptions! Just because your child doesn’t have a social media account, doesn’t mean they are NOT on social media. Kids who don’t have phones often look over shoulders of kids who do. Friends may also Snap or Post pictures of your kid lip-syncing or with a funny filter. Talk with your child about how their friends use social media. Ask them what think about it. What’s safe? Unsafe? How would they handle their friend posting an embarrassing picture of them online?
  5. Practice setting limits with friends. Talk about how to handle sticky situations: What would your child do if they saw cyber-bullying? How would they respond if a friend posted an overtly sexual picture of themselves online? (This may happen earlier than you think!) What if a friend wants to “borrow” their smart phone? Ask questions, and do your best theatrical performance of a “nonjudgemental parent”. Role play ways to handle different scenarios that work for them.

What do you think? Does any of this resonate? Please, please, please share ideas in the comments below. Us “old people” need to stick together. ;)

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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