The Internet, Social Media, and Mobile Device Family Collective Agreement

November 10, 2015

There are some very important things a parent can do for their child when it comes to sharing the message of proper digital citizenship/literacy, including setting clear parental boundaries, expectations, and consequences to their child’s online behaviour and spending some time discussing these important issues with your kids. Unfortunately, I have heard of many adults in our presentation on social media safety for parents share with us that they don’t know where to start, thus the reason for our Internet, Social Media, Mobile Device Family Collective Agreement.

Our Family Collective Agreement is designed to be more than just a read-and-sign document. It is designed to be a read, discuss, expand, and sign document. We don’t want parents giving this agreement to their child and saying, “Just read it and sign it;” we want parents to sit down with their child and engage them in the following process,

  • Together, read each line of the agreement out loud
  • Ask your child, “What does this mean to you?” and listen carefully to their answer
  • Have a further, open discussion about the point of the agreement, especially if your child shows signs that they do not understand its meaning and its importance

Once the child understands the meaning and importance of the contract’s purpose, both parent and child should initial on the line and then move to the next point and repeat the above noted process. This step is important given that if the child later breaches the agreement and says, “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t understand” you can now produce the agreement of accountability which will have their initials attached, acknowledging that the child both knew and understood the meaning of the breached section.

The Family Collective Agreement is not just about parents’ expectations specific to our children’s online responsibilities, it’s about communicating the fact to our children that parents also have online family responsibilities that they need to be held accountable for. We carefully document these parental responsibilities in the Family Collective Agreement. Our Family Collective Agreement is not just about the “I” (the child), it’s all about the “we” (the child/parent/significant adult dependant/family).

Specific to consequences for actions, should a child breach a condition of the Family Collective Agreement, parents need to ensure that consequences are measured, reasonable, and properly enforced. Too many parents want to treat every breach like it’s a nail and hit it with a hammer. Harsh consequences for minor breaches, or an honest mistake, can often cause a child to avoid coming forward in the future for fear of losing their tech, and this is something that we definitely don’t want to encourage. In the Family Collective Agreement, we account for the honest mistakes and/or when a child does voluntarily comes forward with the fact that they have breached a condition of the agreement. It is inevitable that our kids are going to make honest mistakes online that we as parents need to acknowledge and handle with sensitivity. Sometimes turning a mistake into a teachable moment is far more desirable than taking a purely punitive approach. Having said this, however, if a child was “willfully blind” to any condition of the agreement, they need to understand that there will be measured and reasonable consequences to their actions.

Download the Internet, Social Media and Mobile Device Family Collective Agreement.

Digital Food For Thought.


AKA “The White Hatter” #thewhitehatter

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