Parent’s Guide to Creating Shared Media Use Agreements

Parent’s Guide to Creating Shared Media Use Agreements

Expectations about media and screen use can be a source of frustration and strife for parents and children. Shared media use agreements are one tool to support more intentional, healthy use of screens within families and households.

Sitting down with your child to craft a media use agreement that addresses everyone’s use of television, tablet, computer, smartphone, gaming, and other devices can set expectations and opportunities for holding one another accountable.

It’s important that children have input into the agreement and that everyone signs on. Some things to consider when crafting a media use agreement include:

How much time should each member of the family be off screens to be physically and mentally healthy? Does the time they use screens differ by day of the week or by what else is going on?
Are there locations where and times when screens are off-limits, such as the dinner table or before bedtime?
What types of content are healthy for the child at this age?
How is your child expected to interact online with respect for themselves and others? What does this look like?
How can your child bring you questions, concerns, or fears that arise from their own or others’ experiences online?
How will parents monitor their children’s media use? When will children begin to self-monitor?
What happens when someone breaks this agreement? What will the consequences be?
What rules will all family members follow? How and why might expectations be different for adults and for children of different ages?
What rules will they be expected to follow when they are back in your home? Are there expectations they’d like to hold themselves to within their new home setting?
Research indicates that simpler is better and that keeping the details of the agreement available for frequent reminders may support stronger adherence.

Some families may find it easiest to create a written document that all members of the family sign; others may find it’s more effective to write out simplified expectations on posterboard or a chalkboard to display in a prominent location, like the kitchen. What’s most important is the conversation and ongoing discussions about maintaining healthy, intentional use of media.

It’s likely that you’ll need to update the shared media use agreement frequently as your family acquires new devices and as your child becomes more independent with their media and technology use. Embrace these opportunities to talk about how each member of the family uses media and devices, what you enjoy, and what you’d like to do differently.

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