One of the most important things a parent can do when it comes to sharing the message of good digital citizenship/literacy with their child, as well as setting clear parental boundaries, expectations and consequences to their child’s online behaviour; spend some time discussing these important issues with your kids. Unfortunately, I have heard many adults in our social media safety for parents presentation 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, “read this 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, especially if your child does not understand its meaning and its importance
Once the child understands the meaning and importance of the point, both the parent and child should initial 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 which will have their initials attached, acknowledging that the child both knew and understood the meaning of the breached point.
Our Family Collective Agreement is not just about a parent’s expectations specific to our child’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 to; we 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 / family).
Specific to consequences to actions, should a child breach a condition of the Family Collective Agreement, parents need to ensure that consequences are measured, reasonable and enforced. Too many parents want to treat every breach like it’s a nail and hit it with a hammer. Harsh consequences to minor breaches, or an honest mistake, can often cause a child to not come forward for fear of loosing their tech, and this is something that we don’t want to encourage. In our Family Collective Agreement, we account for the honest mistake 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 parents need to acknowledge. Sometimes turning a mistake into a learning/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.
Digital Food For Thought