The Best Technology-Screen Time Contract for Kids

Use this 10-point checklist to end tech battles in your home.

Posted Apr 19, 2018

Battles over screen time disrupt families every day. Eavesdrop on most homes and you’re likely to hear:

“Put your phone down!”

“Turn the computer off!”

“Stop texting!”

Parents are frustrated and concerned for their kids—and they should be. Numerous studies have suggested that unlimited use of technology can have a negative effect on a child’s emotional intelligence, temperament, and social development (See "How Technology Lowers Emotional Intelligence in Kids"). In fact, there is a national movement, supported by top technology innovators, that strongly recommends children do not have smartphones until age 14 (8th grade) and are not given a data plan until age 16. (To join the movement, visit "Wait Until 8th.")

Technology can be highly addictive, particularly for children and teens. In therapy sessions with me, many of them admit that they want to put their screen down but they just can’t, thereby forcing parents to become the dictators of screen time.

In my parenting workshops, parents always ask: I’m tired of policing my kids’ screen time—what should I do?

How to Create a Family Culture for Screen Time

Kids crave structure, consistency, and leadership from parents. So rather than go to war over screen time, I recommend establishing a family culture around technology by sitting down and creating a Family Screen Time Contract.

The contract below provides a basic framework, allowing for flexibility and customization based on your kids' ages and your family’s use of technology. Set aside a time to fill it in together, edit it, or use it as a jumping off point for discussion. Each family is different, so each contact will be too.

Remember, the contract is not a punishment but a way to set healthy screen time boundaries for everyone in your family, including parents. Screen time devices include smartphones, computers, laptops, televisions and all game systems. (To print or download a copy of the contract, click here.)

THE ________________ FAMILY SCREEN TIME CONTRACT

1. School Nights & Weeknights

Our family shuts down all our devices at __________ o’clock. The devices remain off until the next morning. Devices will not be turned back on until everyone has finished breakfast, and is dressed and ready to leave.

2. Weekends & Holidays

Our family limits screen time on weekends and holidays to _______ hours/minutes per day.

3. Travel Vacations 

After arriving at our destination, everyone in our family limits screen time to _____ minutes in the morning and ______ minutes in the evening. We leave our devices in our hotel or vacation homes and don’t take them on activities, such as hiking, going to the beach, cycling, etc. If needed, one device may be designated to be used for directions, photos ,or emergency calls.

4. Screen Time Blackouts

Our family does not use our devices when we have: (check all that apply)

___ Meals together

___ Family gatherings

___ Friends visiting

___ Playdates

___ Sleepovers

___ To walk or drive

Add your personal family guidelines here: 

________________________________________________________________________

5. Device Storage & Charging

Our family does not store or charge tech devices in our bedrooms or playrooms. Instead, we keep our devices in a communal space, which is ______________________.

6. Screen Time Privilege

Devices aren’t available after school until homework and chores are completed. Chores may include:

___ Making beds

___ Tidying up rooms

___ Doing dishes

___ Taking care of pets

___ Helping prepare dinner

Add your additional family chores here: _________________________________________

7. Alternatives to Screen Time

Our family recognizes that too much screen time is unhealthy. As a family, we each have weekly physical and creative activities such as (check at least three):

___ Exercise

___ Sports

___ Musical instruments

___ Art

___ Dance

___ Reading for pleasure

Add your own special activities here: ___________________________________________

8. Web Use and Passwords

To protect our children from inappropriate material and frightening images, members of our family under____ years old are not allowed to surf the web unsupervised. Parents also keep records of all passwords, including social media passwords, and don’t allow secret accounts.

9. Social Media Behavior

Our children agree never to use social media to be hurtful or mean to others.

10. When the Contract Is Broken

Our family recognizes that screen time is a privilege not a right. If someone in our family repeatedly breaks the family contract, devices will be taken away. Parents will decide for how long.

DATE: _____________     

SIGNATURES: __________________________________________________

__________________________________________________

Healthy Structure Is the Key to Screen-Time Management    

Parenting is full of challenges, but one thing is certain: Technology is here to stay. Structuring screen time helps to limit parent/child battles by setting clear guidelines for everyone. Remember, technology is a tool, not a way of life. Help your kids manage screen time better, and enrich their lives with quality bonding time and greater self-mastery.