I have heard that I should make a personalized contract with my child about their computer/internet activities. What should be in it?
Yes. It is a good idea.
Write and sign a personalized contract with your child that outlines rules for using the computer and mobile devices, including what s/he can download, what s/he can post, and consequences for inappropriate use. Some sample contract templates are here:
• The Family Online Safety Institute, FOSI, here’s their Child Contract, available for download in English and Spanish.
• From SafeKids.com, this page has a Kids’ Contract, Teen Contract and Parent Contract.
Besides simply getting on the same page with your kids to be sure that you understand each other, having a contract (or an ‘agreement’), sends your kids the message that you take the issue very seriously – it’s important - and that you have specific requirements for acceptable behavior.
When you discuss this with your child, emphasize that the overall goal of having a contract – besides the obvious of keeping him/her safe and healthy -- is to help empower the child to make good decisions. For example, your contract might limit the amount of entertainment time children spend online by stating, "You can play video games up to 45 minutes a day". Explain that the maturity lesson is in living up to the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. The intention is that screen time of all kinds is limited to 45 minutes, so the child should not try to dodge the intent by spending 45 minutes on videos, 45 on Facebook and 45 on YouTube. If your child can’t handle that quite yet, it’s better to make your contract more specific by limiting “screen time”.
NetSmartz worked with the Boy Scouts of America to help Scouts stay safe online. They created a “Cyber Chip” which Scouts can earn when they become knowledgeable about issues such as cyberbullying and Internet scams. There are grade-specific videos and information on a variety of topics (cyber bullying, cell phone use, etc.) as well as age-appropriate safeguards and a Scout Law pledge here for Grades 1-3, 4-5, 6-8 and 9-12.
• The Family Online Safety Institute, FOSI, Child Contract.
• SafeKids.com, this page has a Kids’ Contract, Teen Contract and Parent Contract.