Almost every teenager, and even pre-teen, I know has some electronic device that is internet capable. The dangers of the internet for our children are real, and we as parents need to be prepared to protect our children, even from themselves. Unfortunately, many times we don’t know how to protect our kids. A basic go-to rule for screens has made navigating the parenting struggles associated with screens easier in our home. We call it the “hand it over” rule.
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Why We Need Rules for Phones and Screens
The problem with our teens and tweens having almost unlimited access to screens is that everyone and everything on the other side of that screen has nearly unlimited access to our children. It’s not just cell phones we have to worry about now.
Teens, and even our younger children, can communicate with other people and send and receive pictures on almost any internet capable device. They can even use devices that are not really cell phones as cell phones with applications like google voice to text and receive calls.
The “Hand it Over” Rule for Screens
The goal of the hand it over rule is to create a situation where parents, at any time, and without warning can see what is happening on their child’s internet capable devices. The rule itself establishes the expectation that this can and will happen. It puts a level of accountability in place for use of devices when expectations are clearly defined.
The hand it over rule is exactly what it sounds like. Whenever a parent says “hand it over,” whatever device (phone, gaming device, laptop, etc.) the child is using should be handed over, immediately. No leaving the room, no finishing a text, nothing.
Teaching the Hand it Over Rule
First, explain why you are putting this rule in place. Talk about the need for safety with internet capable devices and phones. Talk about the consequences involved outside of your home for people who send and receive inappropriate content. Be clear that this rule is a safety boundary in place to protect your child, because you love them.
Second, explain the rule itself and your expectations thoroughly. Make sure that your child understands every facet of your expectations. Be sure to use words your child understands. Give scenarios.
If necessary, act it out. Run through a role playing scenario of how this rule my be used.
Most importantly, put it in writing. Clearly outline, in writing, your expectations for phone and screen usage and the consequences if your expectations are not met or the rules are broken. You can download a free printable contract for cell phone and screen usage at the bottom of this post.
Finally, use the rule. Check in with your kids often. Let them know that you really do mean to protect them and hold them accountable for their device usage.
Make it Stick
If the rule is broken, you must enforce the consequences. If you don’t you will have not only lost control of the screen situation in your home, but the respect of your child. Making your consequences stick is really just keeping your word. When you keep your word, you maintain your integrity with your child.
This Sounds Extreme
If you think this rule sounds a bit extreme, you’re right. It is. I promise you the people out there wanting to prey on your children are pretty extreme in their efforts. We as parents have to be diligent in protecting our children.
Free Printable Contract for Cell Phones and Screens for Teens
Download the free printable Contract for cell phones and screens via the form below. I created this form based on ideas from lots of other forms I found online so, feel free to edit this form to make it suit your own personal use.