Importance of family agreements

A mother told us about a disagreement with her husband about whether their son is allowed to play video games. Before the pandemic, her son was not allowed to play. However, since the pandemic began, her husband has purchased some of the video games for their son. Here are some tips to help you if this is also a problem in your family.

Even before the pandemic took hold in the US, two thirds of parents say parenting is harder than it was 20 years ago. Of these, the majority cite technology and social media as the driving force behind this belief. (Pew Research Center) It’s no surprise that parental disagreements about technology use and social media would also arise with these new parenting dilemmas.

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Tips to reach agreement on games and devices

TIP 1: Family rules need to be clear, consistent, and predictable.

According to the CDC, family rules help children understand what behaviors are expected. For these to work well, “everyone needs to know, understand, and follow the rules” within a family. If parents do not follow the rules or have different rules, it will be confusing to the children. (CDC) Kids learn best when the rules and expectations are clear and consistent across parents.

TIP 2: Discuss your approach to tech and media use ahead of time.

Consider a family media agreement to begin a discussion with your child’s other parent (See Common Sense Media Family Media Agreement). These types of documents will help outline issues that might arise and provide an opportunity for discussion before you have to face the issue in real-time.

TIP 3: Collaborate on a plan to show a united front.

Kids do best when parents reach an understanding about rules ahead of time. If a parent knows that some areas will cause friction, it is best to discuss these areas of conflict outside of the presence of the child. As a child grows, incorporating their input into a media/tech plan is helpful and more likely to be successful. (Susan Wilkens, Bay Area child psychologist)

TIP 4: Have compassion for each other.

During such a stressful year, we need compassion for our partners and for ourselves. When discussing disagreements like this, it will be more helpful to start with validation by acknowledging that the other parent cares about your child. (Susan Wilkens, Bay Area child psychologist)