At Education Incorporated (Edu Inc), I recommend that every family introduces a digital values framework within their home.
The purpose of the framework is to acknowledge the role of technology in our everyday lives and the need for skills, while providing a common contract for healthy tech habits to which all members of the household agree.
These are my nine steps to creating a healthy tech habits framework in a home:
Work backwards from the desired outcome, your victory condition. The three digital competencies of citizenship, habits and skills can be your north star on this. Ask yourself:
How do I want my child to conduct themselves privately and publicly with technology?
How do I teach and reinforce safe and responsible digital usage?
How do I enable the 3D’s without compromising some core family values?
Base it on your family values and what is important to you as a family and why. For example:
At what age does my child get their first cell phone?
On which days and at which times is gaming allowed?
Does my teenager have a computer in their room with unchecked internet access?
Write down the contents of the digital values framework and once everyone has agreed to it and signed it, put it up in a place where it can be seen for easy reference – like the fridge door. Doing this means that you are not the bad guy when asking questions about tech habits and enforcing the framework.
It is okay for different rules to apply to different people based on their needs and circumstances. For example, a teenager may need access to their phone in the evenings to complete their homework. The Grade 4 sibling does not.
Be sure to discuss everyone’s ‘pain points’ and pet hates. Adults can also have bad tech habits that annoy and disrupt the family harmony. For example, an adult may constantly check their phone or allow phone notifications go off at all hours.
Discuss and include consequences for breaches, based on the family values.
Less screen time or internet access.
More physical chores around the house.
Pocket money forfeiture.
Build in revision time and discussion for new tech and exceptions.
Situations or new tech or new ‘pain points’ will determine when the framework needs to be revised. Remember children are very good at finding loopholes!
Include your children in the discussion so that they understand the intention of the framework as it relates to the family values and your victory condition. This inclusion makes them feel that they have contributed to the framework. Remember, they may have their own pain points and pet hates!
Have a digital sunrise and sunset and timeouts (meals or special times). These are absolutes for the whole family when tech is hands off.
Have a central place where tech lives when not being used. This makes it easy to have a roll call and check that devices are not being used covertly. It also means that you are not always hunting for the charger for your device.
Be good role models for children
When creating a digital values framework that works, it is important to acknowledge that children today have real and meaningful digital relationships and friendships.
Remember too, that you, the parent, model the tech behaviours you want your child to adopt. Your children do not do what you tell them to do, they do what they see you doing.