Our family just signed our first Family Media Agreements.
Yep. We’re a digital family in a digital age, and it’s about time we got all the important stuff out on the table. Signed it. In ink. Totally bigtime.
What’s a Family Media Agreement and omg how much does it cost? No worries! No stressing! It’s all good. A Family Media Agreement is not a big deal but. . . well, really, it is a big deal.
Very simply, a Family Media Agreement is a contract of sorts signed by family members that outlines safe practices for online behavior.
It opens the door to frequent conversations about keeping kids safe online, in the same way that discussing stranger safety does. And a lot of the same concepts apply.
Anyone can create a just-for-your-family Media Agreement, and especially if you have kids who use mobile devices, who surf the web, or who play interactive platforms like Minecraft or Club Penguin, you may want to consider taking this step.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- 3 Reasons You Should Create a Family Media Agreement (TODAY!):
1. It begins a must-have conversation. Online safety is no joke. Kids are smart and kids are quick. And it’s true that they may know a lot more than we did at their age, but if your kids are online and you haven’t talked to them about big stuff like stranger safety or how to keep them safe online, it’s time.
We said to our kids, Hey guys. We’re having a quick but super-important Family Meeting after dinner tonight, and it’s about Family Media Agreements. We know that being online–being connected–is fun and important to you. But there are things we have to talk about–and expected behaviors we have to agree upon–before we move any further.
Because Maddy and Owen are using Club Penguin, which allows them to interact freely with other players, we have to make sure that your behavior in this game is safe, smart, and secure.
We talked about what they knew about being safe when they are online, and they made connections between safe online behavior and safe offline behavior (a whole lot is the same: treating others with respect, keeping personal information (name, location, age, etc) to yourself, or notifying an adult if anything at all makes you feel uncomfortable.
2. Your kids deserve it. They do. Many adults feel overwhelmed, intimidated, and afraid of the internet. They check Facebook, maybe even Instagram, but beyond that, they feel like they ‘just don’t know enough’ to help their kids much more.
And that’s not true, and it’s not okay. We just can’t give up that easily, and there’s no reason to.
You can ‘get’ the internet, even if you’re not all that tech-savvy. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, if you never heard of Vine or SnapChat, have anxiety about Twitter, or never re-pinned a pin on someone’s board over at Pinterest, no worries!
You can ‘get’ this. You really can.
What you need to know: (there’s a ton more to this, but the bare bones are below)
- You must have access to your kids’ log-ins and passwords at all times. Bam. You’re paying the bills. You need and deserve this.
- Terms of Service for most all social sharing platforms say users must be at least 13 years old for use, according to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). There. So if your kid is younger than 13 and is begging to get on Instagram, tell her it’s not legal.
- You should have your Google, Yahoo, Bing, and YouTube settings adjusted or in ‘safe mode’ so that adult content cannot filter through. Not perfect, but it’s a start. When your Google is in Safe Mode, bubbles will show in the upper right corner of the screen. I like that.
- Your computer should be in a central area of the home. Mobile devices should be used on main floors, with an adult nearby.
- Kids need help when they are searching online. Help them with search terms, reliable sources, and finding and understanding the search results.
- Kids should be unplugged–UNplugged–when they go to bed. Phones and mobile devices should be with the parents, charging and resting so they’re ready for a new day.
- Need or want more? Check out Our Digital Kids Series or pick up a copy of my pal Amy Lupold Bair’s Raising Digital Families for Dummies book! Fabulous, top-notch resource for all things family, safety, and security!
3. Family Media Agreements are quick, easy, and free. Really.
We used the free Family Media Agreement available on Common Sense Media, which is one of my all-time favorite sites ever, ever, ever in the whole, wide world, and we only adjusted it slightly to make it fit for our family. Find one that is age-level appropriate.
Check it out. Print it. Talk about it. Sign it. And you’re done.
Read through it with your family and make sure it’s cool with everyone. Every member must be on board for this to work.
This is a signed, binding agreement. It’s serious. And if your kids like their devices and want to keep them, then some rules must be in place. What I love about this agreement is that the parents’ piece acknowledges that online time is important for kids–because it is.
Common Sense Media is a site that every family should become fast friends with, for so many reasons.
I honestly pull out my Common Sense Media app any time I’m about to turn on an unfamiliar movie for the kids because it shares a short summary, ratings, and ideal age ranges for any game, app, tv program, book, song, video game, or movie. But I regress. . .
The following resources from Common Sense Media will be super-helpful for helping you prepare your Family Media Agreements:
- Common Sense Media: Family Tip Sheets — An incredible resource for all things digital literacy and online citizenship
- Common Sense Media: 1-to-1 Essentials — Everything educators, administrators, and parents need to know about establishing 1-to-1 programs in their schools
- Common Sense Media: K-12 Digital Literacy & Citizenship Curriculum — Free, step-by-step, and totally necessary. A complete Scope and Sequence for programs geared toward grades K-2; grades 3-5; grades 6-8; and grades 9-12.
- Common Sense Media: Professional Development — Tons of webinars, videos, and resources to keep all staff (and parents!) in the know.
Keep it light, but keep it serious. Do it over dinner or over ice-cream sundaes. Do it with your own family or gather several families and do it together. It doesn’t matter how–it just matters only that you do it.
If we don’t start having open, honest conversations with our kids about online safety, we’re nuts crazy.
Is the Family Media Agreement perfect? Nope. Is it a rockstar attempt? Yes. But like every biggie conversation, this should be frequent. It’s not a one-time and done deal. Keep it posted somewhere central and if need be, do a refresher every few months.
Do you have a Family Media Agreement?
Have you considered it?
Do let me know! I’m always up for learning better ways at managing this big job of parenting our digital kids! Thank you, thank you, thank you to Common Sense Media for all you do to keep my family smart, safe, and strong online!
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