I ran my post Gifts that Should Have Strings Attached twice this year and once last year, because I fully believe that we parents should take a tough stance when we hand over technology. We should recognise every digital gift as a ripe opportunity to train our kids in handling technology responsibly.
Unfortunately, what usually happens is the kids receive their gifts with gladness, profuse thanks, and quivering thumbs. Off they trundle, device to ear, firmly shutting the door on further parental intervention.
Dear Parents, don't let your kids walk away with a digital minefield in their pocket! Don't blindly trust your kids' moral goodness and hope for the best. Your children might be good and trustworthy, but cyberspace is not–and you have just gifted them a portal into a world of risks.
Instead, follow the example of one savvy Mom, who, along with a shiny new iPhone, gave her 13-year-old son an 18-point Acceptable Use contract. Her introduction letter includes these words, “Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.” Go Mom!
Janell Burley-Hofmann is an American freelance writer and one very switched-on mother of a teenage son. You can read her contract here. Check it out; it is well worth the read.
Janell's contract rocks because it not only lays out the Hofmann Family house rules, it also addresses digital etiquette, cyber citizenship, and the all-important but oft overlooked life balance. She earns bonus points from me for dealing with sexting and porn up front and scores a shiny merit badge for banning his iPhone from school.
Of course, having a contract is only the beginning. To mean anything, it has to be monitored and enforced. Regular inspections are a must. Why not set monthly reminders in your diary to carry out periodic checks on kids' devices?