From TVs and laptops to smartphones and tablets, our daily lives are dominated by a wide variety of different media. When used thoughtfully and appropriately, this can be a great thing, enhancing our daily lives. But when used inappropriately or irresponsibly, it can be disruptive or even harmful, hindering academic achievements, social skills, and even future career success. Granted, you cannot do away with media and technology, nor should you, but it is important to establish boundaries.

One way to do this is create a family media agreement!

What is a Family Media Agreement?

A family media agreement is a personal contract signed by family members that outlines safe practices for online behavior, covering how they are expected to deal with computers, smartphones, gaming consoles, and other internet-capable devices. There are many different names for this type of agreement, with some referring to it as a family tech plan, a family media use plan, or a technology agreement. Regardless of what it is called though, the intentions are the same: to teach family members good online habits.

Why is a Family Media Agreement Important?

There are many reasons for establishing hard rules for media usage. For one, too much screen time can be unhealthy, with excessive media use being associated with obesity, lack of sleep, and school problems, and other issues. Additionally, too much communication through cellphones and other mobile devices can make it harder to communicate face-to-face.

On top of this, there is the mater of online security. While younger generations are often more tech savvy than their parents, they also often aren’t as conscious of the potential dangers of the internet, from cybercriminals and identity theft to cyberbullying and online predators. Creating a family media agreement not only helps establish some guidelines in terms of how and when your children use their technology, it also serves as an opportunity to figure out just how much they know about being safe online.

What Goes Into a Family Media Agreement?

The exact requirements that go into a family media agreement will vary based on your family’s specific needs, but that are certain topics that tend to come up. Common subjects in a family media agreement include:

  • Taking care of all online-capable devices
  • Not sharing passwords or private information
  • Screen time and general media time limits
  • Restrictions on posting photos or videos of yourself
  • What to do if someone online makes you uncomfortable or behaves inappropriately
  • Good online etiquette and how to be a positive online citizen

Other potential topics that one might consider including are plagiarism, online piracy, the use of strong passwords, or best practices for remote learning. Ultimately though, what goes into your family media agreement will come down to the specific topics you think are important to talk about.

How Do You Make a Family Media Agreement?

First of all, you should brainstorm about what you want to include in your family media agreement. To help with this, consider looking up examples that other people have posted online. For instance, Common Sense Media offers a template for a family media agreement, which even includes a few blank spaces for expanding upon it. If you find a template that you like, feel free to use it for your own agreement, but otherwise they can serve as inspiration and give you a sense of how your agreement should look.

Whether you decide to use a template or create your family media agreement completely from scratch, you should write it down. After all, the point of the agreement is that it is basically a contract between you and your family, so your family members need to know exactly what you are asking of them. Plus, having these various behaviors written in concrete terms makes them easier to follow.

Once you have a rough draft of your agreement, talk to your family members about it, getting their opinions on the rules and requirements that you’ve included. If there is anything that they aren’t happy with, hear them out. You should also use this as an opportunity to talk about how to stay safe online, along with the connections between safe online behavior and safe offline behavior. From there, you can make any necessary additions or adjustments, print copies for your family members, and have everyone sign it (including yourself).

Remember that a family media agreement isn’t just about laying down a bunch of rules and demanding that your kids follow them. It needs to be a mutual understanding between you and your family. Even if you don’t fully understand why certain media is important to your children, you should respect it and take the time to understand their interests and needs before placing restrictions on them. This kind of consideration makes kids more willing to listen and more likely to take the agreement to heart!