Screen Time Contract: Managing Screen Time in the Family

As we have mentioned in our previous articles, as kids grow older, managing the time they spend in front of a screen can be really challenging, since the range of activities they can do online becomes broader and broader with time. While there are many ways one could suggest to help parents put a limit on their kids’ screen time, signing a family screen time contract seems to be one of the most effective methods, since apart from its practical use, it is also a great tool to teach kids how to be responsible.

Why sign a family screen time contract?

Well, the actual question is “why not?”! First of all, kids love the whole process of creating a contract, since it gives them the feeling that they take part in setting the rules instead of just having to obey them without actually understanding why do what they are asked to do. Following the rules they have themselves set increases their sense of responsibility. It becomes a matter of “keeping my word” rather than “having to do what I am asked to”. Moreover, it is much more possible for them to follow a rule they have set for themselves than a rule that has been imposed on them, since they feel they have chosen to do so. And of course, being treated as an equal member in the family reinforces their sense of self-worth.

Signing a family screen time contract is not beneficial only for kids, though. Many times adults too need some limits when in front of a screen. Setting screen time rules for the whole family will help you too to spend your free time more creatively and dedicate some quality time to yourself and the people around you. In addition, the process of composing a contract requires a lot of discussion and reasoning that will bring the family together and contribute to further bonding between the members.

Let’s do it!

screen time contract
Photo by Gerald Altmann

The word “contract” may seem scary, but – luckily! – you don’t have to be a lawyer to compose one! The only thing you need is positive attitude to prepare it and willingness to comply with it once it is ready and signed. So, how do you compose a family screen time contract?

  • Defining the circumstances

First of all, you have to decide which occasions you would like to include in your contract. For example, would you like to set some screen time rules for your vacation? What about weekends or sleepovers? Think of various circumstances when you would like to limit screen time. You can also ask other family members to think of such cases before you gather to prepare the contract. When doing so, you should all have in mind that the term “screen time” refers to every activity performed in front of a screen (playing games, watching TV, working on a computer, etc.)

  • Categories to include

Apart from setting specific limits for specific occasions, you can include multiple categories in your family’s contract. Remember: it’s your contract, so you can add as many rules as you want, providing that they are applicable and easy to remember. As time passes by, you may need to add, remove or alter some rules based on the family’s needs. So, other factors you may want to include in your contract could be the use of social media, online behavior, assuming responsibility for taking good care of the devices or even alternative activities to screen time. You can check a great example of a family screen time contract here.

  • Choose your words carefully

Set a time when all family members can sit together and discuss the rules you are going to set. You should also keep in mind that the rules in the contract should apply for everyone in the family and not only for kids. That way they will feel that this is something you do as a family and not a way to control them. Choose your words carefully. Instead of “we must shut off all devices” write “our family shuts down all devices”. This way it seems more like a habit your family has acquired than a rule you have to follow.

  • Last but not least!

Like all contracts, your family screen time contract should include a paragraph mentioning the implications one will have if they break the rules. Kids need clear limits, so they need to know what will happen if they do not follow the rules they have set.

You’re all set!

Once your family screen time contract is ready, all family members have to sign it. Then it’s official! Every family member has to get a copy, so that they can refer to it whenever needed. Don’t forget that you have to be consistent with the rules too! After all, you are the example your kids follow. Show them how it’s done!

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