A few weeks ago, my parents called to tell me that my mom was getting the new iPad. They wanted to know if they could give my 6 year-old, Ben, her original one. We hadn’t been planning on getting him an iPad of his own anytime soon, but I admit, the thought of having his mac n’ cheesy hands off my own was attractive. My husband and I discussed it. We looked at the smears on my screen that marked Ben’s latest Fruit Ninja attack, and we said OK.
However, just because Nana and Poppop gave him the gift does not mean that his parents don’t make the rules. We still hold the reins, so with the gift came an official contract, a home Acceptable Use Policy of sorts. There was a similar one that I saw recently here that a blogger/mom created for her 13 year-old’s new iPhone. Hers needed to focus on usage and financial literacy in a way that Ben’s does not, but I love the voice and common sense she used in her contract, so it’s definitely worth a read.
Just to clarify before you read on: he does not have a camera on his iPad, there is no texting option, there is no phone, and he doesn’t have an email account. All of these would justify a different list of rules. Instead, we focused on expectations on remaining engaged with others while still owning an attention-sucking device. It’s a device we all love and all use; he sees every adult with one after all. But with a child or a teenager that is growing and learning what it is to be engaged with the world, the ownership of technology comes with rules.
Incidentally, I think if you are going to create your own technology contract for your kids, you should do two things:
1. Do it from the onset. They should expect a contract with every piece of equipment they are given from phones to games to MP3 players. You signed a contract when you bought it, didn’t you? So should they.
2. Write the contract at their reading level. OK, so I messed up with this rule on the contract below. That’s because I was scrambling to get it done before the gift was in his hands. Ideally, however, you could use a Flesch-Kincaid Readability Calculator to help level your writing so that you can read it together. The contract below comes in around a 5th grade level.
So, without further ado, here’s…
Ben’s iPad contract
Congratulations! You are now the owner of an iPad! However, as Peter Parker’s uncle says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Therefore, there are some rules in being a new iPad owner.
1. When you are using your iPad, if an adult asks you something, you must pause what you are doing and respond. You are never allowed to ignore someone.
2. You may not use headphones. They isolate you from the world. (Note to reader: perhaps this rule will change in time, but for a 6 year old – or at least, my 6 year old – I don’t want him using headphones yet.)
3. You must read every pop up. If it asks you to buy something, click “cancel” or come get an adult. If you can’t read it yourself, DO NOT click continue or OK. Come get an adult to help you.
4. You are never to purchase ANYTHING.
5. If anything happens to your iPad, we do not promise to replace it. It is not your parents’ responsibility to keep it safe or intact.
6. We would recommend that you charge it every night. It’s not a hard and fast rule exactly, but if you follow it, you won’t be disappointed.
7. If there is an app, a movie, a game, a reading book, or an audible book that you want, just ask us and we’ll consider whether you can have it. That means if we are happy with how you have been treating your iPad, we will be more inclined to reward you with a new app or feature. You must earn everything by using your iPad well.
8. Make sure that if you want to play something around Sam that is it appropriate for him to see. (That means no weapons or fighting.) (Note to reader: Samwise is his almost 2 year-old brother who loves hanging out with big brother Ben.)
9. You must never have the volume up so high that you can’t hear what’s going on around you. The volume must never be so loud that others in the house have no choice but to listen to what you are doing. Keep the sound reasonable.
10. Wash your hands before using your iPad.
11. The iPad is never to be used in the car or at a restaurant when it’s time to socialize and talk to those around you. We all like hanging out together, and we don’t want to waste our time together watching you watch a screen. (This rule is flexible based on Mom and Dad’s decisions.)
12. Your iPad must never be left on the floor for you, Sam, or BiggyShorty (Note: the dog) to step on.
13. If there is any work you have to do, you are NOT allowed to use your iPad first. If you have to clean your room, do your homework, your daily reading, etc…you are NOT to touch the iPad until your work is done.
14. You can read a book or listen to a book on the iPad while in bed for the night, but there is no playing games at that time. Playing games will zing up your brain, not relax it. You’ll have plenty of time for insomnia in college.
15. Don’t ask what happens if you don’t follow the rules. You and your iPad don’t want to find out.
This is your first real piece of technology, and it must be treated with respect. We are so proud that you are our son. We are so proud of how you are growing up. Owning an iPad is a big, adult deal and we know you can handle it if you just follow the rules.
We love you.
Mommy and Daddy
This contract was signed by all stakeholders in an official contract-signing moment. See our signatures below:
Will he break a rule along the way? Of course. After all, being 6 is about being a work in progress. But being a parent of a child in the 21st Century is about granting them access to the tools and amazing inventions around them while also setting expectations about citizenship, both online and off.