Browse all articles

Our son's behavior improved with a tech agreement.

A parents shares one of her parenting triumphs.

While we love giving advice about media and technology, we think it's even more important to talk to each other, which is why we asked parents about their parenting wins. Other parents are a treasure trove of tricks and techniques you can borrow to solve your stickiest problems. Hiding video game controllers instead of relying on parental control software? Great tip from a Facebook friend! Even if their solutions don't fit your parenting style perfectly, you can usually find an idea to shape into something that works for your unique family.

That's why we were thrilled to receive this parent's story to share with you. We hope you can find inspiration, and maybe an idea to use yourself.


Know your kid

If there are three things I know from parenting a high-functioning autistic child, it's 1.) they're magnetically drawn to technology, 2.) they are more prone to meltdowns than your average kid, and 3.) they take to rules like a fish to water.

When my son was 4, my husband and I agreed, "Let's allow our son to play games on the PBS Kids website. They're educational and it'll give us a little break from parenting!" Yes, our son did love the games, but getting him off a device was always a nightmare that negated any break we'd had from active parenting. So we all-out banned computer games in our house and resisted the urge to purchase an iPad or gaming system, focusing instead on trying to build social skills through playdates, one-on-one play, and scheduled activities.

A thoughtful approach

Jump forward four to five years: Our son would periodically campaign (strongly) for video games, and he had some problem behaviors we wanted to see alleviated (back talk, ugly behavior towards sister, etc.). Enter the technology/behavior contract. After much thought and discussion, my husband and I crafted a written document that stated if, after dinner, he and I agreed that our children had used respectful bodies and words towards others throughout the day, and if they'd completed all chores, homework, and extracurriculars, they would be entitled to 20 minutes of video game time that evening. We introduced the contract to our children, and almost overnight the behavior in our house got much, much better. Given a strong incentive (technology) and clear-cut rules, our Asperger's child proved he could self-regulate a good 90% of the time.

Adjust as needed

A few years out, our tech/behavior contract is one of the "parenting wins" we're most proud of. We've had to tweak it a bit (exs.: Kids are allowed to "bank" their tech time for the weekend; if a child blows their chance of earning screen time for the day, we wait until after dinner to break the news), and there are times when the adults in the house would rather be doing other things than monitoring a child's gaming time. But we can honestly say that a thoughtful approach to technology really helped us in the long run.

Win, win

We now own a couple of iPads (that only the parents know the passwords for) and splurged on a Nintendo Switch last year (locked down by the parental controls app I'm still not 100% convinced by). We've talked to our kids a lot about safe and respectful online behavior. And my son gets just enough Fortnite to feel like he's part of that cultural phenomenon and connecting with friends—but not so much that his grades or person-to-person social time suffer. Thanks to our tech/behavior contract, technology went from being a problem-creator to a useful tool in our home.


If you would like to create a family media agreement, we have a few you can customize for your unique family's needs.

Sierra Filucci
Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. As her kids get older, Sierra has developed a special fascination with youth culture, including YouTubers, gamers, social media, and slang. When she's not watching Marvel movies and Parks and Recreation with her kids, she enjoys reading young adult books, walking her dog, and streaming dystopian thrillers late at night.