Family Technology Guidelines

A few years ago, Ethan asked us if he could create an Instagram account. I believe he was 9 at the time and in an effort to put the subject matter off in the moment, I may have said "when you're 10". It didn't get brought up again.

Well, wouldn't you know that within minutes of us showering him with "Happy Birthday"s and a special 10 year old breakfast request, Ethan reminded me that I said he could get Instagram when he was 10. And here we were.

As someone who uses social media regularly in my every day life, I felt like I needed to address the topic with him in a fair and balanced way. I stayed true to my word and allowed him to download Instagram to his iPod, but spent quite a bit of time helping him understand the benefits and risks of sharing online, whether in a private or public way.

We talked about general rules, things not to do, photos not to publish, etc. and I felt comfortable granting him that privilege. After all, Ethan was (and still is) quite mature for his age.

Once Aiden caught wind, his eyes got big. "So I can get Instagram when I'm 10?" Now Aiden is not quite as mature for his age as Ethan, but how can I say no to one and not the other? I left my response much more vague this time "We'll see," I said.

And...here we are. On the eve of Aiden's big double-digit birthday and guess what he's been talking about all day? Instagram.

Our family is very "connected". My kids have televisions in their bedrooms, iPads, Kindles, iPods. Basically as Ricky and I have upgraded our devices, we've either passed our old ones down or at the very least kept them to give to the kids at some point down the line. My kids all know how to find their way around passwords and YouTube searches - and were pretty good at it even at the young age of 3! 

While we have always made it clear that having this access to technology is a privilege, it started to become overwhelming setting and sticking to consistent rules surrounding time limits, parental controls and ensuring privacy. I did a little research last year and came across a device called Circle by Disney. It is a small box that we connect to our home wifi that allows me to take care of all of that in one place. I created a profile for each child, linked their individual devices to their account, and from there I have set bed-times, usage times, restricted websites, games and apps, and am also able to access how they spend their time online. It has been a LIFE SAVER for my sanity - and has wreaked havoc on theirs ;) 

(By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post in any way. Simply sharing what has worked for us!)

Tonight, with Aiden anxiously awaiting access to Instagram tomorrow, I knew I had to come up with a clear-cut way to communicate the rules for our household. I finally went back through all my saved posts on Pinterest on this very subject. There are so many great resources, examples of contracts, and suggestions for explaining the risks of being online to kids of all ages. 

I pieced ours together with what works for our family and thought I would share for anyone who may also be feeling the pressure of kids using technology and social media at younger and younger ages. 

Click on the image to make it larger and/or zoom.
Or you can download the PDF file HERE.

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