Young people today are very fortunate to grow up in an age of amazing technological advances. They have massive amounts of information at their fingertips. They can be in constant contact with friends, family – and just about anyone else on the planet. Such easy accessibility electrifies the younger generation, but can raise red flags for their parents who may be concerned that children are sharing too much information over social media or spending too much time using electronic devices at the expense of school and family time. The reality is there are risks and responsibilities associated with modern electronic devices and helping children learn to use these devices properly is an integral aspect of raising them.
We think open dialogue between parents and children and, specifically, the creation of a family contract can promote responsible use of electronic devices. We frequently recommend family contracts as an effective way to set mutual expectations, clarify responsibilities and minimize future conflicts. When families work together to prepare a contract, it promotes trust, incorporates multiple perspectives and makes it more likely family members will follow the terms of the agreement.
How Pitcairn Can Help
Since 1923, Pitcairn has worked with families to help future generations become financially responsible through strong family governance and education programs. We believe family contracts are very powerful tools to address both financial and non-financial family circumstances.
Pitcairn helps families develop contracts and policies for a variety of purposes ranging from investments, education and governance, to charitable giving. We recently developed a Discussion Guide to help families create an Electronic Device Contract. Pitcairn is proud to be the first and only family office to develop such a powerful resource for all to use.
A Message for Younger Family Members
Growing up surrounded by electronic devices, you are as comfortable with smartphones as you are riding a bike. You have faster access to information and greater ability to connect with people all over the world than your parents ever could have imagined when they were your age. That’s exciting for you, but it can be unsettling for your parents who are concerned about how to help you manage this “power.”
One of the things we’ve learned is that a family contract can be a valuable tool to help families build trust and avoid conflicts. We’ve also found that for a contract to work well, everyone who signs the contract should have a say in how the contract is written. That doesn’t mean you will get everything you want and, as you probably expect, your parents still have the final say on family rules. However, if you and your parents work together to prepare an Electronic Device Contract you can both live by, your parents might be willing to give you a little more freedom and you might not give them as many gray hairs. In the end, knowing what to expect will make everyone’s life a little smoother, with fewer disagreements.