Family Media Dialogue Guide and Agreement Templates

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June 15, 2022

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A smartphone and social media agreement can help families create healthy internet habits and set clear boundaries anytime a new device is brought into the home.

Watch this video to see how your family will benefit from a social media agreement/contract

In this VIP resource you will learn

  • How to talk with your students about excessive screen time and social media use
  • Dangers of social media and screen time such as depression, addiction, social anxiety, and suicide
  • Tips to create healthy internet habits as a family
  • What child psychologists say about setting family expectations for devices and how to teach respectful online behaviors

VIP members can download the SmartSocial Smartphone & Social Media Agreement template with this course to guide your discussion with your students

Login or join the VIP membership today to view all resources about creating a smartphone or social media agreement today!

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Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

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Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

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Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

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Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
This app is not safe for students to use unsupervised, but a Green Zone app can serve a positive purpose to help a student to navigate social media and someday build an online brand. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Green Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Gray Zone apps often contain lots of private & disappearing messages, and strangers can use this to chat with students. Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. This zone can be a great place for family time since many of these apps can be entertaining, and let your students express themselves. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Gray Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone.
Red Zone apps often have lots of anonymous features, adult content, and easy contact with strangers. Supervision is strongly suggested on each of these apps or move your kids to a safer zone. All apps require parental supervision, these apps more than others. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Red Zone or view our list of 100+ Apps to find a safer app with your student.
Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ app reviews at SmartSocial.com

This trend is categorized as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge.
Viral challenges encourage students to do dangerous things to garner likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges can be found across several social networks and may encourage students to perform dangerous activities. SmartSocial.com keeps parents updated on these social media challenges before an incident may occur in your community.

Table of Contents

Having technology is a necessary part of our lives. We want to help families create and maintain open conversations about our habits and becoming good citizens of our world, including our actions on technology and the internet. Having discussions about what students want vs. what parents think is never easy, nor is knowing all the answers to the questions and concerns our students face. 

This Family Media Agreement Dialogue Guide will give you a peace of mind and a direction for good conversation with your kids about the rules to follow with their smart devices and social media accounts.

You wouldn't hand your teen the keys to your car without first teaching them to drive... right? Giving students unsupervised access to the internet, without establishing rules and setting boundaries could be just as scary as unsupervised driving. One great way to trigger discussions about internet safety is to create a family media agreement.

In this resource, parents, and students will learn: 

  1. Why your family needs a media agreement
  2. Tips for when students could get a device and types of agreements to use
  3. Family Media Agreement templates: (Screen time, Family Communication/Device Care, Video Games, Social Media and Online Presence)

Why your family needs a Media Agreement video (parent & student video)

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Student/family video  --created & embed week of Nov. 28

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In this video students answer the following questions about family media agreements

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Expert video about media agreements--created & embed week of Nov. 28

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)‍

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What you’ll learn in this video lesson

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What age should my student get a tablet, cellphone, video games, and social media?

Age 0-6: Consider kid-designed tablets with age-appropriate apps and strict parental controls only. Use the Screen Time Dialogue and Agreement Guide to start setting expectations and open the discussion about screen time concerns. If students are interested in video games, consider games with ESRB ratings of E (Everyone) and play together to understand the game and students’ interests. Use the Video Game Dialogue and Agreement Guide along with the Screen Time guide to start talking about what is appropriate to see and do on screens

Ages 7-12: Consider a non-smartphone/cell watch with only call/text functions or a smartphone with non-social media apps only (for example, streaming or downloaded music, e-book or audiobook apps, puzzle games, etc). Use Apple Screen Time or Android Digital Wellbeing restrictions to block downloads and restrict device use for the student based on screen time restrictions.  Use the Screen Time Dialogue and Agreement Guide and the Family Communication & Device Care Dialogue and Agreement Guide to start, or continue, setting expectations and discussion. If students are interested in more advanced video games, consider games with ESRB ratings of E 10+ (Everyone 10+) and continue to play together. Block all online access to video game chat and messaging. Use the Video Game Dialogue and Agreement Guide along with the Screen Time guide to start talking about what is appropriate to see and do on screens

Age 13-14: Consider allowing your teen to use a smartphone with limited social media apps. SmartSocial rated “Green apps” may be a good place to start exploring more social media and connections. Use the Screen Time Dialogue and Agreement Guide, Family Communication & Device Care Dialogue and Agreement Guide, and the Social Media and Online Presence Dialogue and Agreement Guide to start, or continue, setting expectations and discussion about screen time and social media concerns. If your student is interested in online play in video games, consider turning online access to video game chat and messaging on the games, without using headphones. Use the Video Game Dialogue and Agreement Guide along with the Screen Time guide to start talking about what is appropriate behavior 

Ages 13-17: Help your student recognize their personal passions and start recording their activity and work to build a personal online portfolio/website with parents. Consider creating an online portfolio or using Green Zone apps to start creating an online presence. Use the Social Media and Online Presence Dialogue and Agreement Guide and the Student Branding Academy to help guide students towards discovering their passion and being discovered for their future dream path

Family Media Agreement Templates (parent & student video)

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What is a Family Media Agreement?

  • A media agreement is essentially a contract between students and parents regarding all issues of media use, but we believe it has to start from a dialogue between parents and children so everyone is being heard and works to understand the reasons for expectations
  • Our agreement template is a Google document that can be edited to suit your family’s specific needs and family values. Students and parents should review, discuss, come to an agreement then print, sign and post it somewhere visible in the house
  • The guide is designed to create and keep an open line of communication between students and parents with specific discussion points and important issues that should be addressed regarding technology usage
  • This agreement can be used for cell phones/tablets/computers/video game systems/television, or any technology, and screen time your children have access to
  • The overall goal is to help students learn to make decisions about how they use their screen time, rather than being ruled by technology.  We also want to help parents gain a better understanding of how and why students use technology 
  • The agreement is also a reminder that students can always go to a trusted adult when an online situation leaves them feeling bad and helps give them a game plan of how to respond if and when trouble arises. Our students are always learning and the media agreements combined with the dialogues help guide their learning while they are having fun online

Screen Time agreement

  • The Screen Time Agreement is an overview of screen time in general
  • It contains a chart to list out all of your different devices including computers, phones, video game consoles, tablets, TVs, and screen time limits for each 
  • Many devices today have a screen time report to show you when and how the screen is being used. It might be helpful as you fill in the chart to view these reports to get an idea of what is actually realistic
  • This agreement also gives the opportunity to discuss other responsibilities and consequences of breaking the agreement so that there is no confusion on the expectations
  • Take your time to think through and talk about the fill-in-the-blank questions. Discussing these now will set everyone up for remembering the rules when the temptations or frustrations are in full swing

Additional resources for screen time tips

Family Communication & Device Care Agreement

  • Print this out (or copy the page in your electronic doc) and fill out for any device that needs additional discussion beyond just the amount of time students spend. Restrictions on a cell phone might be different than restrictions on video games or a tablet and will require different agreements for each
  • Pay particular attention to communication with strangers and who your students are talking to with these devices. The Social Media and Video Game Agreement Guide also discusses this, but starting the discussions early is key to staying safe
  • Think through and talk together about parental controls for the device and monitoring that everyone should be looking at. If students don’t know what parents are using to help monitor them, chances are they’ll make changes or delete it without knowing that’s part of the expectations on their device
  • If you are concerned about parental control on a school device, talk with your student’s school and ask what recommendations they have as many already have tracking features parents can learn more about

Additional resources for family communication & device care tips

Video Game Agreement

  • Most video games have a rating from the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) from Everyone to Adults Only.  As a family, you can discuss which of these ratings students will be allowed to play at home or at a friend’s house 
  • A lot of online video games offer the possibility of playing with others.  Determine together whether it is appropriate to play games solo, with friends, or with strangers.  Also be sure to discuss how students plan on communicating with the other online players.  
  • If students are allowed to play with others online, discuss an action plan for the student if they come across bullying or something else inappropriate online.  Students can and should always talk to a parent or other trusted adult.

Additional resources for video game tips

Social Media and Online Presence Agreement

  • When a student is old enough to have access to social media accounts, fill out the Social Media and Online Presence Agreement and discuss each of the accounts the student wants or already has
  • Your expectations may be different for different apps or accounts. If your student is asking for an app you aren’t familiar with, check it out with your student and look for it on our Popular Teen Apps Parents and Teachers Need to Know to learn more about it before you make a decision if it’s appropriate for your family or not
  • Parents should always have an accurate list of all of the student’s account names and passwords but students should never share passwords with anyone else (even their best friend or boyfriend/girlfriend)
  • Social media gives students the opportunity to follow positive accounts of people or organizations that can help students explore their interests.  Brainstorm and discuss together the types of accounts that students would like to follow. Visit our Positive Impact of Social Media & Screen Time resource to find out more information about the positive uses of social media
  • Remind students that their online presence can affect their future college admissions or career.  And to always think about what they are posting before they post and to consider how it can impact their future both positively and negatively. Students can do a deep dive into creating a positive online presence with the SmartSocial Student Branding Academy as well
  • Discuss what is appropriate to post or share with others (even in private messages). Remember that nothing is ever truly private or ever really disappears 
  • Social media offers easy access to strangers.  Discuss who is appropriate to communicate with online and the personal details that should never be shared such as full name, address, phone number, birthdate

Additional resources for popular social media tips

Tips to creating a family media agreement

  • We recommend printing at least 2 copies of the google doc we have linked on this page. Then, both parents and students can review the suggested points and write in your thoughts BEFORE you come together for a discussion.   Talk about what you each think is appropriate and come to an agreement
  • Set expectations for ALL devices in the house - not just smartphones. Don’t forget about video game consoles, computers, tablets and even tv/movies. We recommend everyone starts with a screen time agreement first, then builds on additional agreements specific to the devices you use
  • Follow along with the agreement, focusing on important issues such as where and when devices can be used, monitoring, downloading, communicating with strangers, and many others
  • Take a break if anyone in the conversation starts to feel discouraged, upset, or confused. Remember, we don’t jump in the car and know exactly how to make right turns and left turns and parallel park and all the rules of the road our first time behind the wheel.  The more we practice good dialogue and discussion, the easier it will get with important topics like technology and other areas of life too
  • Students should have a say in both the expectations AND the consequences listed in the agreement. Part of setting consequences is knowing that their misbehaviors are learning opportunities, but also that they must live with the outcomes that they create.  Parents we’re here to help guide our students to make the right choices and minimize outcomes we don’t want them to have to experience
  • Encourage everyone to stop and think before they post on social media because it can greatly affect your future and online reputation
  • Consider that the more we work together, the more online privileges we all get
  • After everyone signs your agreement, make sure to keep it somewhere accessible, like on the fridge or on a family bulletin board
  • Regularly referring back to the agreement will remind everyone of the commitments they made and the consequences they could face
  • Consider revisiting and revising the agreement as your students get older and more mature.  This can be a great opportunity to earn more freedoms and teach responsibility

Help your students understand why an agreement is important

It is important for your students to understand why you are establishing these guidelines. Technology can be a great source of learning and fun, but it can also pose real dangers to physical safety and mental well-being. Some experts warn excessive screen time and social media use can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Social anxiety
  • Suicide

A family agreement can help create healthy internet habits. For example, as soon as a new device is introduced into the home you can create an agreement. Remember to revisit and revise the agreement, as needed, throughout the year.  Our goal is that you feel more comfortable working together and for students to learn the responsibility of being online.

A guide to giving your child their first phone children are getting smartphones younger than ever.  Make sure you're all prepared
Unlike with a car — which comes with driving lessons, a learner’s permit and a big test to ensure road readiness — many parents buy the phone first, then try to teach their kids how to use it. It’s a risky approach, experts say. As easy as it is to give your child more freedom, it can be a brutal battle to claw it back when they’re misusing it or showing signs of overuse. - Washington Post
How a cellphone contract helped us teach our daughter to use technology responsibly
As long as I’m busy with other activities that interest me, I never feel the need to go on my phone… Sometimes I start to feel left out on social media, but I enjoy myself so much more when I’m spending time face-to-face with people. - Washington Post

Conclusion

At SmartSocial, we believe students can benefit from digital media when they are taught to use technology with a positive intention. They can have fun AND use the devices and apps responsibly. A Family Media Agreement can be a great learning tool for students to create good habits with technology.

Hear Beth and Andrea discuss social media agreements in MomTalk

With so many resources available and so many people wanting to help, suicide can be prevented. Check on your friends and family members often and let them know you’re there for them. Let’s work towards getting rid of the stigma of talking about mental health. 

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or call 911 immediately. If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text HOME to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.


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