Online safety / September 03, 2019

Kids, technology and rules

Nimmi Kanji

Nimmi Kanji

Director - Social Purpose Programs, For Good and TELUS Wise

Father and daughter looking at tablet computer

Kids, technology and rules

The back-to-school season may come with the same excitement that the New Year brings and is often a time for setting new goals and expectations for ourselves and our families. Well-rested and perhaps slightly bored children are pushed back to reality and the lazy days of summer are replaced with more structure, expectations and goal setting. The first week back to school also comes with a heap of school-related paperwork and forms for signatures from parents. Amongst that pile of paperwork, you may find a technology or digital citizenship agreement for you and your child to read and sign. If you’ve seen one of these before, you know that it typically outlines the rules for appropriate technology use at school, and may also touch on policies and guidelines pertaining to personal device usage on school grounds.

But what about tech rules at home?

Most parents with school-aged children have at least some expectations around appropriate technology use in their household, but many of us are still left with concerns about our children’s digital lives. What are they doing online? What kind of content are they seeing? Who are they connecting with? Are they online too much? Ongoing conversations about their lives online can help us be more informed and put our concerns at ease. It can also be powerful to have concrete and well-defined rules in place for tech use at home, in much the same way there are rules in place to govern tech use at school.

If you’re concerned that the rules will go in one ear and out the other, rest assured that household rules about tech can and do make a difference. According to research by MediaSmarts, children who have household rules about technology and Internet use are less likely to engage in potentially harmful online activities such as looking at pornography and talking to strangers, as examples.

Not sure where to start? We’ve recently refreshed our TELUS Wise smartphone and technology contract and encourage you to review and sign it with your child. Not only does the contract set rules for the child, it also holds parents accountable with their own set of rules! You’ll notice that the contract is applicable to smartphones and any other connected devices, which is particularly important when you consider this recent humorous, yet interesting story about a resourceful young girl who started tweeting from her gaming devices and then her smart refrigerator after her mother confiscated her phone!

Once you’ve discussed and signed the contract, post it in a central area in your home, like on the refrigerator. This way, it is seen often and can serve as a daily reminder, allowing parents and children to hold each other accountable to the responsibilities associated with owning or having access to technology.

If you would prefer to create your own set of tech rules for the family, consider conduct, content and access:

  1. Conduct: what expectations do you have for your child as it pertains to their technology use? Consider setting rules about the need for them to respect themselves and others online; this may include being kind to others, being mindful about the language they use, and thinking carefully before saying, doing or posting anything online. Talk to your child about how the choices they make online can have very real consequences for themselves and others.
  2. Content: what content can your child engage with online? Do they need to seek your permission before downloading a new game or app? What types of websites are off-limits? Are they allowed to use social media? Depending on the age of your child, the exact rules may vary, but be sure to think about how you can help foster an environment where your child will have a safe and positive online experience.
  3. Access: where and when can your child use their device and other technology? You may wish to set rules about where specifically they’re allowed to use their device - for instance, in a common area in the house - and where they’re not allowed - for example, in their bedroom or at the dinner table. Additionally, how much time will you allow? Managing screen time is no easy feat and the rules may need to differ based on the age of your child and the type of online activity they’re engaging in. Read this article to learn more about screen time guidelines from the Canadian Paediatric Society.

You can also ask your child to take our free-of-charge online TELUS Wise happiness workshop. Designed for teens in Grades 9-12, the workshop invites youth to think critically about their digital diet and the nourishing and/or depleting effects it can have on their well-being, while offering tips to help them break unhealthy digital habits.

Download the TELUS Wise smartphone and technology contract now.

Apps & gaming
Kids & tech
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