How to create a technology policy with your family

How to create a technology policy with your family

By: Dr. Shimi Kang

A headshot of Dr. Shimi KangHave you ever heard of a family technology policy? If you grew up in the generation of restricted TV time, think beyond that scope. A technology policy is a comprehensive set of rules and recommendations to guide your family’s use of tech devices and platforms. The best part is that everyone in the family contributes to it, so mutual respect and understanding are at the core of the policy. This collective approach is key to authoritative collaborative dolphin parenting.

Why create a technology policy?

There are many benefits to a family technology policy. It can keep your kids safe from online risks, help them balance their time between recreation and school, and guide which media, games and apps are considered appropriate by your family. It can also prevent arguments over tech time boundaries—if everyone has agreed to the policy, they’re more likely to listen when someone points out they’ve broken one of its rules. A family technology policy is also a useful way to keep your tech use in check as a parent. Role modeling appropriate technology use will help your kids learn good habits.

What should a family technology policy include?

The best family technology policies mirror the qualities of great workplace and government policies. They’re researched, clear and adaptable.

Start by asking your family members why they want to develop a technology policy. Connect your motivation to your core values as a family. This should guide what you include.

Next, define any terms that need clarification. What does “limit” mean to you? What is considered “educational” screen time? If you say no screen time before bed, when should the iPad go away?

Watch this short video for tips on talking to your family about technology:

Beyond limits

Once you’ve set limits on time and place of use, define more specifically what kind of use is and isn’t acceptable. For example:

Acceptable use:
• Passwords on personal devices must be shared with parents
• Cyber-bulling and intimidation must be reported to parents
• Only accept “friend” and “follow” requests from people you’ve met in person

Unacceptable use:
• Personal devices must not interrupt family conversations or outings
• Do not use hurtful or inappropriate language online
• New apps can’t be downloaded without permission

So what?

Be sure to include clear consequences in your policy so everyone knows the outcome of ignoring the rules. You can decide as a family what fair consequences are. Consequences may even be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. If you are going to withhold devices as a consequence, why not arrange a family outing during the device-free time so you can bond face to face.

Make room for change

After implementing your family technology policy, check in with everyone to see how it’s working. You may need to make adjustments while everyone gets used to it. The most important thing is that you’re talking about technology use, and working towards improving your habits as a family!

Dr. Shimi Kang is a Harvard-trained doctor, parenting expert and mom of three. She developed the authoritative collaborative dolphin parenting approach. She will be in Hamilton April 26th to talk technology, motivation and raising healthy kids in a digital world.