As parents, what can we do to help our children use technology in a healthy way?

Technology is not going anywhere and we all need to find ways to us it in a healthy way. But how can you help your children do just that? Here are a few suggestions: 

Delay smart devices as long as you can. Educate yourself. Teach your kids about technology safety and etiquette. Be involved and know how your kids are using technology. As parents, support each other. 

What does this mean? Consider delaying and limiting technology. Introduce it slowly so you can prepare and teach your child as they gain more and more access. This is why we recommend delaying social media and unrestricted internet access until AT LEAST 8th grade. 

First, teach your child how to use a basic phone - how to actually greet an adult on the other end and how to ask to speak with a friend, how to leave a message. These are skills kids need to learn but are hard to teach because most people don't have landlines and have moved away from actually calling each other. Instead of planning a play date for your child via text, encourage them to call their friend's house or a parent's phone. Have them practice calling grandparents and other family members or close friends. Children as young as 3 can be taught this lesson. And I can assure you, the other person on the line will love it. Wouldn't you?

Then be honest about how they can protect their privacy and how difficult it is to do that in an online world. All these online platforms are collecting information about us with every click we make. Once we put something out there, it is there forever, whether we actually delete it or not. Remind them that’s it’s human to protect other people’s privacy, too. And that they should never share information about or a picture of someone else without that person’s consent. Talk about sexting and call it what it is - child pornography. Make sure they understand that sending or receiving naked pictures is against federal laws. And that they should tell an adult immediately if this happens.

Introduce texting - what’s appropriate and what’s not. Is it necessary to text a friend the word "hi" 52 times in 1 hour? What about tone? Encourage them to think about how someone might interpret what they're reading without seeing their face or hearing their voice. Remind them that parents may be reading texts. And to never say something over text that they wouldn't say in person.

Encourage your kids to be deliberate with technology use and to use it sparingly, not constantly. Know what your kids are doing online and support each other. Kids use technology so much, it’s a challenge to go this alone. Parents should be talking to each other about when and how their children are using technology and should do so with empathy and understanding. This is why we set up Concord Promise - to spark conversations amongst parents and to inform parents.

Talk about google searches and teach them how to protect themselves from an “oops search.” Remind them that there are scary things on the internet that are not appropriate for kids', and even some adults', eyes. Build trust so they feel comfortable talking to you if they see something  that scares them. The statistics on children who have been exposed to hardcore porn online either through accidental searches while doing homework or through deliberate searches of something less benign are staggering. We hear these stories far too often. And there is no real way to protect your kids from porn, no matter what parental controls you use. And don't be fooled, pornography has found it's way on to YouTube and is sometimes embedded in innocent videos like Sesame Street. 

Teach them how to avoid information overload and fake news. Always check the source! And that they should really think about what they're sharing and if it's accurate.

Talk about how games and most apps are designed to be addictive - like mini-slot machines in our pockets. And that addiction, especially for teenagers, is very real. Addiction habits are formed during the teenage years when their brains are developing.

When introducing social media, challenge them to think about their own personal brand. Teach them that once you put something out there, it’s there to stay…forever. Encourage them to think about what they’re posting and why. There are endless stories about high school kids being denied admission to top colleges or losing scholarships because of things they've texted or posted. 

Develop a family media plan.  AAP has a great one - it’s on our website. Talk about technology through the lens of your family’s values. Use our resources to educate yourselves. Be a good role model. Absolutely do not allow devices at ANY meal, either in a restaurant or at home. And put phones down while in the car. 

Support each other. We cannot stress this enough. We have heard time and again that parents need the support of other parents to help navigate the complicated world of technology. Let Concord Promise be a platform where you can do just that. 

Technology is here to stay and we have to empower ourselves and our kids to use it to our benefit. 




Family Media Plans

Screenagers director Delaney Ruston almost named her documentary “Out of Control” because that’s how dealing with her children’s technology use felt. We agree. And we have talked with many parents who feel the same way. Time and again, parents tell us that they gave their child a smartphone because they felt pressured to do so. And many wish they could take it back. 

So what is the answer? If you find yourself unable to delay smartphone ownership, a family media plans is a must. Setting restrictions and parameters around media use is important and strongly recommended by healthcare professionals and technology leaders who care about child internet safety. This gives way to open and honest conversations about media use which are vital to raising tech-savvy kids. Family media plans should be working documents and reviewed on a regular basis to both remind children of the rules and also to re-evaluate what is working and what is not. 

We’ve researched some of the top family media plan templates and listed them below. Remember, a family media plan is useful for all types of media, from smartphone and device use to gaming and TV. 

American Academy of Pediatrics - Family Media Plan

This is a great article from AAP which outlines the benefits and risks of media use. It also provides suggestions for parents and healthcare professionals. It is however dated. Most of the research sited is from 2015 and this was published in November of 2016. Thorough information, none-the-less.

A joint venture with Common Sense Media and AAP, this tool offers suggestions and allows parents to fully customize a Media Plan for their family based on family values and the maturity and age of your children. It is extensive, suggests don’ts as well as dos and will challenge kids to think about the world outside of media. It also gives parents the option to add their own rules. The print option isn’t great (it can be long) and you can’t save it. If your kids are all around the same age and will have the same rules, we suggest having a general plan for the family vs. individual plans for each child. There’s also an option to add a media time calculator which gives parents the ability to assign time to each of your child’s activities in a day.

Janell Burley Hofmann’s iPhone Contract for her son Greg

This contract went viral when Janell posted it to her blog several years ago. It was featured in Screenagers. It’s endearing and comical. She addresses risk behaviors as well as ways smartphones can be used for good. This contract can be applied to iPod and iPad use as well but doesn’t address other types of screens or media use, such as gaming.

To see Janell’s contract, click here:

To build your own, click here:

Screenagers Family Screen Time Agreement Template and Ideas

Delaney Ruston, primary care physician and filmmaker, takes a holistic approach to family media planning. She challenges parents and kids to think about how media should be used and why media use and restrictions are important. She asks some general questions to get parents thinking about their family’s values as they relate to media use. She also thoughtfully discusses incentives, consequences and wiggle room, which the other plans don’t cover. She creates an environment for conversation, which Concord Promise full-heartedly supports.


TeenSafe Contract

This smartphone contract touches upon Basic Phone Rules, Knowing Priorities, Digital Citizenship, Social Media and Sharing. It is easy to read and covers all the basics. This contract is based on TeenSafe, a subscription service that monitors smartphone usage, so many of points on the contract refer back to the subscription service. Parents can easily edit this contract to fit their needs.


Interested in sharing a family media plan or smartphone contract that works for your family? Share it below or email us at





Can You Raise a Teen without a Smartphone?

We meet a lot of parents who lament that it's just too hard to withhold smartphones from their children because their child will be left out, ostracized or worse, suffer "social suicide". This is one of the main reason we formed Concord Promise, so parents and children wouldn't have to go alone in making this important decision. Our goal is to ignite a paradigm shift in thinking, so more kids are FREE from smartphones than have smartphones, giving kids the childhood they deserve to learn and grow in the world, not tied to the world via a device.

Someone recently sent this article to me. It's excellent! Melanie Hempe, RN, from Families Managing Media, addresses every reason why we wait to give our kids smartphones and actually, kind-of convinces me to wait much longer. I actually can't think of a single concern she doesn't address. But you tell us....Did she miss anything? Let us know below.

Can You Raise a Teen Today without a Smartphone? Blog post by Melanie Hempe, RN:

Melanie Hempe is the Founder and President of Families Managing Media (FMM). With a nursing degree from Emory University, Melanie has spent over six years working with leading researchers and technology experts on the impact of video games, social media and smartphone media on children and families. Her passion for educating families about the dangers of screen addiction and providing practical solutions has made her a sought after expert and speaker throughout the United States. Melanie's commitment to reconnect families through meaningful interactions and reestablishing balanced use of technology in the home and school is at the heart of Families Managing Media. Melanie knows first-hand the impact of screen addiction of a family and this has led to the development of cutting edge programs from Families Managing Media. 

April 2 Digital Socialization and Our Children: A Community Conversation

Thank you so much for attending Concord Promise’s first event: Digital Socialization and Our Children, A Community Conversation. It was wonderful to have so many parents in attendance and we are grateful to our panelists for sharing their experiences and knowledge.


Here’s our recap:

Like Concord Promise, Dr. Englander encourages parents to delay smartphone ownership until at least 8th grade, but ideally even later. Dr. Englander shared new research about what age kids are getting smartphones and the reasons why. She discussed increased incidences of cyber bullying by children who have smartphones. To learn more about Dr. Elizabeth Englander, please visit her website at

Dr. Maxwell shared so much useful information and real life stories from her professional experience as a clinical psychologist. She talked about teaching children to use technology through the lens of your family’s values and the importance of parenting children in whatever environment they are spending time, including in the digital world. We strongly encourage you to explore her website where she offers a wealth of information.

You can find information about Dr. Sharon Maxwell through the following links:

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Thank you to Danielle Heard for sharing her experience as an educator and a parent. Ms. Heard talked about choosing life experiences that may be challenging over the ease that sometimes comes with having a smartphone.

Finally, a special thank you to Irene Todd and Lydia Rheinfrank for their support of Concord Promise and our mission to support, educate and partner. It is through their support, that this event was a success. A special thank you to Irene for sharing her family’s journey as they navigate the world of digital media and devices.

To join Concord Promise and learn more about what we are doing, visit our website at Although we encourage parents to delay unrestricted internet and social media access until AT LEAST 8th grade; our mission is to support ALL parents through educational opportunities and partnerships with healthcare and technology leaders. You do not need to join the promise to stay involved. You can join the promise here - Join the Promise.  There is also an option to join our mailing list here: Subscribe to Newsletter and Events.


We hope to see you at our next event!

Concord Promise Team



Introducing Sharon Maxwell, PhD, Human Values Digital World

For those of you who missed our first event, Dr. Sharon Maxwell was, well, amazing! And we are thrilled to partner with her and Chelsea Maxwell, EdM! Dr. Maxwell and Chelsea have a deep understanding and concern for our children's social emotional intelligence in this online, in-your-face world and so they travel around the country offering advice and solutions for parents. When I spoke with them, they were eager to tell us that parents they meet, in every region, are desperate for parent-to-parent support, which is why they are so excited about Concord Promise.

Never before has technology imbedded itself so deeply into the minute-to-minute reality of our lives. Social media and smartphones have become the new landscape where teens define themselves, develop relationships, and understand love and intimacy. In our workshops and presentations across the country, we meet parents who are longing for community, to not be alone in delaying access to screens. Concord Promise offers this community, supporting parents in making the hard decisions we know are best for our kids!
— Sharon Maxwell, Ph.D., Human Values Digital World

Dr. Maxwell is currently penning her second book: Who's Raising Our Kids: Nurturing Human Values in a Digital World. Here is a recent letter she wrote to her blog readers: 

Dear Readers,

Happy Fall! I hope you are all enjoying the excitement and energy of the new school year and are finding moments to refresh and renew. Chelsea and I have been traveling and presenting to schools across the country and continue to be moved by the continuous investment of time, care, and love that teachers and administrators pour into their work. We are inspired by the parents, who show up to our presentations, after a full day of work, hoping to find ways to better help their children become healthy, responsible human beings.

We live at a time when values, like saying what you mean and being accountable for your words, can seem arcane.  And we are all witnessing what happens when words no longer matter. But how do we convey our values to our children, who more and more live in a digital world? Wherever Chelsea and I go,  whether we are presenting on Sex and Sexuality or the Freedom of Self-Control, the questions return again and again to how we can teach values to children in an internet driven culture. Nothing seems more relevant.

Chelsea and I have spoken on this topic throughout the country.  We have so much information to share. Many of you have asked for the book.For the next few months we are going to be blogging excerpts from the book we’ve been working on: Who’s Raising Our Kids? Nurturing Human Values in a Digital World. We would love your feedback. This is a large and complex subject, so please bear with us, as we break it down and construct what we hope will be practical information that you can use with your child, today. Let us know how it goes!

We suggest you take some time to read through her blog posts and exerts on her book, but we also understand how busy you are! So if you only have time to read one post, check this one out: 

Entertainment:  Who's Watching Our Kids

We look forward to working with Dr. Maxwell and Chelsea and bringing them to Concord again soon!


All's fair in Love and Smartphones

One question that keeps coming up again and again is "Is it 'fair' to delay smartphone ownership for younger siblings, when my older child received a smartphone in 6th grade?" 

"I say no because I love you." Parenting is hard. Saying no is hard. But this is important. We know the dangers of smartphone ownership, social media and unrestricted internet access. Not totally convinced, read this.

"I know it's hard to understand but I am making this change because I need to protect you and keep you safe." The reality is sometimes the rules change. They have changed before and they are changing now. Children need to learn that parents are in charge because we have their best interests in mind. We are here to protect them and care for them and make sure they are living healthy lives. Because we love them madly. And if that means we change the rules, we change the rules.

"Sometimes the rules change because we have new information." Over the last several decades, we've seen the dangers of smoking - first during pregnancy and then in general - and changed the rules. We wear helmets when we bike and ski. We strap our kids into car seats and wear our seatbelts. We eat better foods. We practice mindfulness. We learn and we adapt. This is no different.

"Let's talk about social media, internet access and smartphones." This is also important: Delaying smartphone ownership doesn't stop the conversation. It is vital that you be open with your children and share information about the dangers and distractions of smartphones whether you sign the Promise or not. What are your family's values and how do those values come through when we use technology? One day they will have a smartphone and it is important that they understand the responsibilities and risks. Read articles together, listen to podcasts, model smartphone etiquette, encourage them to get involved with the movement. 

"You're not alone. It's cool to be in control of yourself and not be controlled by a technology." We have designed the Concord Promise to be a public promise so parents can share with their children that other families have also taken the Promise and decided to wait. Assure them that they are not alone. Classmates and friends are following the same path and waiting until the right age to receive a smartphone. Information is power. And there is so much out there that supports this decision. It is in the best interest of your child. And it is never too late to make a change.

How we got here.... (Exert from our Digital Socialization and Our Children event)

We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support that we have received from our community. Parents and partners have been so grateful for what we are doing.

Like any social movement, we have our critics and while we can't address every naysayer, I do want to provide some background about why we are spending countless hours, working for free, to get this going, not only in Concord but in other towns as well.

Technology is an amazing tool that has definitely changed our lives in many positive ways. There is no doubt, I would have trouble getting things done without my smartphone. I received my first smartphone, as a gift, 10 years ago. At first, I was unimpressed. But as the years have ticked by, I have certainly become more reliant on it. I've gone from FaceBook to Instagram and back again. I have a twitter account but can't remember the password. I check email and texts in between car pools. Times have certainly changed from when these devices first came out. When the benefits were obvious, but the risks were not - except maybe “Blackberry thumb.” 

Two years ago, I had a conversation with the Thoreau principal and she voiced concerns over childhood anxiety and so many kids’ apparent lack of responsibility. That was around the time Julie Lyncotth-Haimes spoke at the high school about How to Raise an Adult. The more research we did, the more we discovered that overuse of technology was interfering with kids abilities to gain skills necessary for social emotional intelligence and positive mental health. From the physiological effects of screens on developing brains to the anxiety that kids feel when their parents are distracted by their smartphone. It all pointed to device use. 

In the last two years, so much more research supports this notion - that kids are trading important childhood experiences for time spent looking at screens. And as this research is coming out, the average age of smartphone ownership is going down (it's now around 10) and the average amount of time people spend on smartphones is going up (most recent statistic - 8 hours a day!). We felt that we had to do something.

Our first goal was to bring parents together through an on-line commitment to delay smartphone ownership until at least 8th grade. Our hope was that if enough parents signed up, we could eliminate the social pressure that causes many parents to give their child a smartphone. We wanted to shift our communities thinking around smartphones - that they’re not necessary for middle schoolers, that it’s not “social suicide” to protect your child from the dangers of smartphones. If less kids had them, it wouldn’t be such a thing.  

But smartphones alone do not expose kids to these dangers - so we clarified this to include unrestricted internet access and social media. 

This only just scratches the surface of what is going on with technology and our kids. We have since committed to not only supporting parents who promise to delay but also to planning educational events for ALL parents because whether you agree to delay or not, and as our children reach high school and college, we still need to stay informed. 

We are also partnering with leaders in technology, healthcare and education. Really smart people who are studying this topic everyday. People who are willing to share their knowledge with us so we can share it with you. You can find a list under Partners.

We are expanding to other towns - Bedford has launched, we are talking with parents in Carlisle, Wayland and Acton-Boxboro. 

We want our children to have the types of childhoods that we did. To learn those vital social skills through face-to-face human interaction - in the neighborhood, at the park and on the bus. To give them a hands-free, heads-up childhood. 

There is nothing that smartphones, social media and unrestricted internet access can teach them that they can’t learn some other way. Like driving a car….super useful….when children are mature enough and their brains are developed enough to handle it. 

We hope you will join the Promise. That you will support and respect each other regardless of your decision to join. And that as a community we will keep learning more and keep adapting based on the best information available.

And we're off...

Since we launched Concord Promise on February 5, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from both parents and members of the community. We hosted our first event and are planning more, we are growing our partners list and talking policy with multiple schools in Concord. We participated on a panel at the Acton/Boxboro viewing of Screenagers and are attending the CCFC Conference in the end of April. Bedford launched their own Promise. And with more towns interested, we have launched Your Promise. 

Please visit our "Partners" page to see who supports us. This list grows weekly and we are grateful for those who are eager to be involved with our movement. You can expect to see some of these people at upcoming events!

Please continue to share our message with friends. If you are interested in partnering with us or know someone who is, please let us know. You can reach us at

We are in this together!