Sounds like a great idea to me. You’ve probably heard the term “flipped classroom,” where the “lecture” or teaching happens at home, usually in video format and at the student’s own pace, and the “homework” – the opportunity to practice what’s been taught – happens in the classroom. In this set-up, all kinds of interesting things happen: the class becomes much more interactive, with teacher becoming more facilitator or coach; the learning becomes more customized; and students becoming much more engaged, which is only logical.
So apply that not-really-that-upside-down approach to households. Psychologist and parent Lynn Schofield Clark did. She writes in the Psychology Today blog that she liked the 18-point contract that a New England mom wrote up for her 13-year-old son, however, “as we talked it over in my own family, we felt that, rather than having me as the mom write something up, we wanted to work together on an agreement. We practice what I like to call ‘flipped parenting’,” Lynn writes. So she and her kids (14 and 12) together worked up a practical, one-year contract for use of media and technology by everyone in the household, not just kids (turning everybody into wise facilitator, practitioner, and signatory) – practical for a number of reasons, including those that seem to be based on experience (e.g., “Everyone needs to keep orange juice far away from laptops. At all times”). The contract has five smart categories – smart in that they acknowledge the diversity of ways we all use media and tech: Media & Leisure, Media & Learning, Mediated Transportation (media in the car, etc.), Mobile Devices; and Computers.
Things I love about this contract:
* The comfort in knowing other families lose devices and find beverages near computers problematic too.
* All the kids’ items especially, because they illustrate how much and how kids want their parents to engage with their media use (and the “Media & Learning” category is about what parents need to learn, e.g. Minecraft – here‘s a post about some kids who get to learn along with their teachers in Minecraft in school!).
* The way it illustrates that what this tech part of parenting is really all about is what parenting has always been all about: humans, not technology. Online and on phones are, more than anything else, just new “places” where we get to practice our humanity.
* “J” is tough – at least it looks like J (14) is the one who wrote the last item in the contract: “When Mom watches horror or fantasy television programs or films with J, she’s not allowed to say, ‘eww,’ or ‘oh no!,’ or ‘gasp!’”
Does that include zombie films, J? If so and if under this contract, I’d probably be noncompliant. Which indicates that there might need to be a clause for dealing with noncompliance (more general than No. 5 under “Mobile Devices” about failure to come up with the cash for one’s data plan).
* How ready are we as a society to consider this parenting approach that’s actually in sync with the user-driven media environment and tools it’s addressing? Maybe not very ready to flip our households the way the Clark family did, if Janell Hoffman’s more top-down style went viral (here’s my mild protest against top-down approaches to participatory media in a “One mom’s cellphone contract for her son.”
* “Of fearless parenting in this unmapped landscape,” where classrooms get flipped, jobs need to be invented, problem-solving is collaborative, citizenship is a practice, safety happens from the inside-out as much as the outside-in, and there’s more and more emphasis on self-direction (here‘s Tom Friedman at the New York Times on the age our kids are growing up in).
* About Rachel Simmons’s house rules for social tech (September 2011)
* Rosalind Wiseman’s family tech policy (February 2010)
* About another mom’s rules for teen texting (May 2009)
* SafeKids.com’s Family Contract for Online Safety (with kids’, teens’, and parents’ pledges), by my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid, who wrote it before his kids grew up
* (Much) more recent musing from me on social media time-outs (for all ages)