A contract for your child’s phone – why, how and a printable

It’s so important to have good conversations with your child about how to use technology well and what your expectations are. A contract is a great way to start that conversation. There are other ways – skywriting, billboards, subliminal messages hidden in Disney films, however talking still seems to be the most effective.

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Do contracts even work?

For a contract to work, all you have to do is make sure that it protects and provides for the needs and desires of all parties involved. Say this to your child and they’ll be amped, then explain to them that the term ‘party’ has a very different meaning in this context.

The point of this process is not to use a contract as the first decree of your technologically repressive dictatorship. The point is to enter into a partnership so that you can be actively involved in helping your child to form healthy habits with technology. So make sure you use this contract experience as the catalyst for conversation that leads to compromise and agreement.

Download your printable cell phone contract – click here

What’s the goal of the contract?

The goal is for your child to understand three things –

  1. There are rules
  2. You’re concerned for their safety because you love them
  3. The rules, as defined by the contract, come with rights, responsibilities and accountability

That’s why you probably shouldn’t buy a phone for your three year old. If your child can’t understand the meaning and implications of rights, responsibilities and accountability, then they’re too young for a phone. It’s also important that the child understands that breaking the Ts and Cs of the contract comes with consequences – like losing their phones.

Before you write a contract – are they even ready for a phone?

Cellphones are great. They’re fun, they keep kids occupied when you want them to be quiet and they connect us. But kids need to master a few skills to become responsible phone users. Here are some questions to consider.

  • Can they take care of an expensive piece of technology? Can they look after the heat pump remote. When you asked them to change the temperature did they succeed? Or did they somehow download a virus and drop the remote into the toilet?
  • Are they mature enough to use their phone well and not for mischief? Do they think it’s funny to take suggestive photos of their armpit? Because that’s irresponsible.
  • Do they know that EFTPOS is an acronym?
  • Do they know that almost all phones contain raw minerals that are extremely rare and the process of mining them is having a significantly detrimental impact on the environment?

You may need to do some homework before the contract discussion

Now, no one likes homework, not even teachers. But before you jump into the chat about a cellphone contract, there are a few decisions you might want to make.

Will they own the phone or will it be a ‘shared’ phone?

Will it be a phone that is managed by a collective where each family member is the bi-weekly elected official to make decisions about the usage of the phone? Or will it be their personal phone? A shared family phone can be a great intermediate step to owning their first phone.

Will you be paying for their data, texts and calls, or will they?

If you want them to have a phone for safety reasons, it seems fair that you’ll be paying for at least some of the costs. Just make sure you chat about the ongoing operating costs before they buy it. There are pros and cons for both so just make sure you both agree on who’s paying for what.

Will they get data?

If it’s their first phone, consider getting them one that doesn’t have data access. This way, your child gets a little of the connection they want, with slightly less of the risks of social media and online access that comes with a smartphone. You could get them a phone with limited data on a prepay plan, or you could get them a phone with wifi access but no data at all.

There are pros and cons to all of these options, but keep in mind, your child will have to learn how to navigate the internet by themselves at some point, and the goal is to set them up to do that well, no matter where they are.

The process of coming to an agreement may actually be more important than the contract itself. Our kids need rules, but what they need much more is to know the reason behind the rules and the most important reason to communicate to your kids is that you love them.

Download your printable cell phone contract – click here

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