One of the final viral stories of 2012 was about a middle schooler from Massachusetts whose mom gave him an iPhone for Christmas. She also gave him an 18-point contract to go with it, and made it clear that if the young man didn’t sign, no iPhone for him! Although I don’t know this family (and indeed live on the opposite side of the country from them), I have an interest in their story as the mother of a high schooler.
I’ve had wireless phone service with T-Mobile since 2006, and I started out with a family plan for my kiddo and me that continues (mostly unchanged) to this day. We both began with “dumb” slider phones since it’s what we were able to afford. In fact, we actually used more minutes than data back then, and I developed my habit of texting in full sentences as a way of setting an example for my then-preteen. Honestly, I was more concerned about his spelling and grammar than the amount and type of messages he might have been sharing with his friends! How quaint such concerns seem now, in a time of sexting and cyber-bullying and stuff on the Internet that never goes away *ever*…
I never sat down to have the kind of talk with my kiddo that this mom had, and since I’e read her list I’m somewhat conflicted. I agree with the vast majority of the rules she lays out, especially the ones about not being ruled by technology or missing out on human interaction, and especially about not using it to be mean or hurtful to others. Honestly, it’s the first and the fourth rules that leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. She starts the contract by saying “It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?” While this is absolutely true (and I reminded my own kiddo of this a few times since he’s had a phone), the tone she takes here seems a little smug for my personal taste. I’m not wild about her requirement that a 13-year-old has to hand in his phone to a parent every night at 7:30 pm either. (Full disclosure – this mostly rankles my inner teenager, who’s a little closer to the surface more often than I like to admit.)
Still, as the mom of a teenager, I’m glad to see another mom working to make sure that her kid isn’t going to be one of those insufferable little twerps I so often fantasize about kicking when I see them in public. My own observation has been that far too many parents are far too unwilling to say the word “NO” to their children. So on the whole, this contract is a good thing and far less extreme than many of the headlines about it would make it seem. It may not be best way for every parent to go with every kid, but it’s certainly a great place to start a conversation. (By the way, NPR had a lovely interview with Janell Burley Hofmann about the contract on Tuesday’s Talk of the Nation. It’s really worth a listen.)