Now that the summer holidays are almost upon us, children and teenagers will be out of their usual routine, which for the most part is a great thing. The summer is a time to relax and enjoy summer camps and spending time together with family and friends. However, the lack of a structure can also be a challenge when it comes to the management of screentime and the general use of technology. One great way to negotiate and manage the use of technology over the summer is to create a digital contract with your children.
The basis of any digital contract should be to help your child build an awareness of having a balance when it comes to the use of technology, particularly when they are out of their usual routine over the summer months. Encouragement and open communication are both central to supporting your child with regard to this. Regularly remind your child of the importance of spending time with their friends in settings that do not involve using digital devices and communicating online. Encourage and promote moderation in the amount of time that your child spends online and using devices such as smartphones to communicate. Talk with your child, so that they begin to think about the time they spend online as an important element of their overall well being. In other words, too much time spent on screens or sitting playing online games can have an impact on their current and future well being. In a similar way to the way in which healthy eating is incorporated into family life, digital health needs to be seen in a similar way. Encourage your family to have regular digital detox days and incorporate digital health into your family’s digital contract.
Once you have negotiated as a family what things need to be in your digital contract, be that screetime, an amount of time to be spent gaming online or how much time is allowed to be spent messaging friends each day, the digital contract can then be signed by both children and parents and be put up in a central place at home as a reminder to everyone of what has been agreed.
Finally, as with every contract there should be regular reviews of the digital contract. Every fortnight to three weeks is a good guide. Make sure that all family members have their voices heard about what is working and what is not in relation to the contract and again negotiate any changes that may be needed.
A digital contract can certainly be a great way to offer a structure to the balance in the use of technology particularly over the coming months. Best of luck and have some fun creating a digital contract this summer!