Should You Create a Family Screen Time Contract?

by Screen Time Team on 15/11/2018

We’ve all chafed under an arbitrary rule. Perhaps it’s a uniform code at work that makes no sense, perhaps it’s a homeowner’s association demand that we only put certain plants in our gardens, but we’ve all asked ourselves “Why does this stupid rule exist?” Kids often feel the same way, especially if rules are handed down to them and they’re not told why they’re expected to follow them.

And for their screens, in particular, a screen time parental control contract may help them understand, and stick by, the rules.

What Is A Screen Time Contract?

A screen time contract is really nothing more than writing down the rules for screens for the whole family, preferably after talking about why the rules are in place. A typical contract will include “no phone” times, such as at the dinner table or during after-school homework time; what times are allowed for screen time; what rights parents reserve, such as removing applications from phones and when those rights kick in; and punishments for breaking the rules.

Usually, the rules are enforced with parental control software.

What Does A Screen Time Contract Include?

Any screen time contract should clearly lay out the rules that the entire family is expected to follow; exceptions in certain scenarios, such as going out; punishments for breaking the rules, which are usually having screen time taken away; and a provision that allows you to revise the contract as circumstances change. Before you know it, your elementary schooler will be a teen with a job, after-school obligations, and dates, so the contract should be able to change with everyone’s needs.

Phones shouldn’t interrupt family time. Contracts can also include other rules. For example, if kids can earn more time on game consoles or their phones by doing chores, include a chore schedule and how much time they earn for how much time they put into a chore.

A cheerful family plays board games at home.

Why Have A Screen Time Contract?

The contract serves a few purposes. First, it gets the rules written down, so nobody can claim that they didn’t know what was expected of them. Every parent has heard this argument at least once, so heading it off at the pass will save a little aggravation.

Secondly, writing out the rules gives everybody in the family a right to weigh in on the rules and whether they need revision. For example, kids might make the case that they need certain apps enabled to research papers at school or that they should be allowed to play games on their phones while waiting at the dentist’s office. Whether parents agree is up to them, but at least kids can feel they took their best shot.

Finally, it sets the standard for everyone. If the rules are fair, apply to everybody, and are discussed by everybody, kids are less likely to feel like they’re being singled out or picked on.

It also helps parents to model behavior for kids. If you stick to the contract, they’re more likely to, and if they break the contract, they know the cost.

Want to try out a family contract? Get your Screen Time family contract here! Remember though – parents have to stick to their part of the contract too!

Contracts are just one tool in the screen management toolbox. To learn more about parental control software, try Screen Time for free!

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