In the first post of our StopSign Reviews series, we’ll be taking a look at preemptive Internet safety tactics through the use of Internet Usage Contracts for parents and their children.
A growing trend among modern families is the signing of a contract between parents and children for a variety of topics. We know of parents successfully using contracts with their kids for guiding appropriate behavior, regulating television &/or electronic device use, and of course for tech-related topics such as cellphone usage and dealing with cyber-bullying. But the broader topic of Internet usage potentially has more snags in it due to the unknown, unsavory elements of the web, which are often combined with phones and bullies.
In general, we find that the use of a contract between parent and child is a good starting point, so long as all parties involved are committed to following through with the terms of the contract. Potential lapses in moderation by a parent or inappropriate use by a child are a concern, but if the family is serious about Internet safety then these lapses should be rare if not completely absent.
There are many different options when it comes to a usage contract, and there’s no one right solution. Your best bet is to do a search for Internet usage contracts and find something that works for your family. We’ve found a handful online to help get you started, but if you don’t find one you like you can always mix-and-match sections and create your own version. I’ve even found combination contracts that discuss phone and electronic equipment use, but the ones below focus solely on the Internet.
- Internet Use Contract by the Cyberbullying Research Center.
- Teen Pledge For Being Smart Online by SafeKids.com.
- Staying Safe Online: A Young Person’s Contract by Kids.GetNetWise.Org.
- Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens by Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens.
- Family Online Safety Contract by Family Online Safety Institute.
Each of the contracts have their own focus, but most have sections discussing how inappropriate Internet usage will be handled, acknowledging terms and conditions of Internet access (by signature or by writing down specifics), clear emphasis on keeping personally identifiable information private (name, school, address, pictures, etc.), and setting clear expectations on the part of the parent(s) and child(ren).
Any of the internet usage contracts should work for you and your kids to get the ball rolling. The most important thing is to open the dialog with your children, set expectations, discuss the reality of the not-so-nice side of the Internet, and be sure that your kids know who to turn to if/when they encounter a problem. Communication is a must when talking about promoting the appropriate use of the web whether your children are playing or studying online.