Parenting in a Digital Age

Insights from the latest research into parents, young people, and digital and mobile media

Flipping Parenting: My Family's Media and Tech Agreement

Children have a lot of good ideas about how their parents should manage media.

I like the contract that Jannell Burley Hoffman created for her 13-year-old son  when she got him an iPhone for Christmas.  However, as we talked it over in my own family, we felt that rather having me as the mom write something up, we wanted to work together on an agreement.  We practice what I like to call flipped parenting.  People in education will recognize that this term is familiar to the idea of the "flipped classroom" that's popular in education.  The flipped classroom refers to putting student learning rather than teacher instruction front-and-center in education.  And so, in the case of parenting, in order to put the learning of young people front and center, I wanted to ask kids themselves what they thought it was important for us as parents to do when it comes to technology.  Kids learn more about behavior regarding technology from their parents than from anywhere else, and it can be an eye-opener to hear what they're learning from us when we talk about what behaviors they think we as parents might need to curb.

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So we had some fun this evening and created the following.

The Clark family technology agreement, effective 1/13 – 1/14 

Suggestions and addendums welcome. 

Starred items created by J (14) and A(12).

Each person contributed to and oks this agreement.

Computers:

  1. * When A has something to say, Mommy has to close the laptop and listen.
  2. * When J is using the computer and A wants to use it, she doesn’t automatically get to use it.  Same for J.  The exception is when the person who wants the computer has to do homework and the one using the computer is not doing homework.
  3. Laptops are work devices.  They are not to be used by anyone other than the person who needs it for work.  Some exceptions may be granted with permission. 
  4. Everyone needs to keep orange juice far away from laptops.  At all times.

Mobile devices:

  1. No one (including mom and dad) can check text messages or answer the phone when we are at the dinner table, watching a television program or film together, or playing a game together.  That’s what voice mail and answering machines are for.
  2. * Where is the nook? Let’s find it.
  3. Whenever someone finishes using the iPad (or the nook, once we find it), he or she needs to plug it into the charger so that the next person who wants to use it can find it and it will be ready for use.
  4. When J gets a data plan, his phone will need to be placed up on the kitchen counter overnight.
  5. J can get a data plan when he has demonstrated that he has earned $20 each month for three months in a row and can therefore pay for that data plan.  If he fails to pay for the data plan it will be discontinued after a one-month grace period.
  6. * Mom can’t talk on the phone about J or A when they are in the same room and can hear her.

Mediated transportation:

  1. * When more than one person is in the car, no one can talk on the phone to other people (this means you, Mom).
  2. The driver picks the music, but unless it’s a long trip, A says no NPR or talk radio.

Media & Learning:

  1. * Mom and Dad agree that they will each will ask A and J to show them things that they think are fun to view on YouTube, and Mom and Dad agree that they will devote 15 minutes to doing nothing else but listening to them describe why they like what they've chosen to show.
  2. * Mom will enthusiastically spend 15 minutes straight experimenting with Minecraft under A’s supervision.

Media & Leisure:

  1. We will have weekly technology-free activities, like hiking, biking, or walking the dogs. Occasionally, we will take technology-free retreats, like when fishing or camping.
  2. * J can program a new ringtone for Mom every month as long as it costs less than $1.
  3.  If Mom or Dad is going to devote some time on a weekend or vacation to doing something on his/her own that involves media (and this includes reading), Mom and Dad will allow J and A to enjoy approximately the same amount of time engaging in the mediated leisure of his/her choice without criticism or interruption.
  4. * We need to have a movie night once a week that includes all four family members.
  5. * We need to have a family game night once a month.  This can include Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance, or Wii Sports.  It can also include a board game or a puzzle.
  6. * When Mom watches horror or fantasy television programs or films with J, she’s not allowed to say, “eww,” or “oh no!,” or “gasp!”

Thanks to Lenore Skenazy over at Free Range Parenting for encouraging me to elaborate on my previous blogs about this topic!

Lynn Schofield Clark, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the University of Denver who studies the choices we face as digital and mobile media change our relationships and our societies.

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