A Mom’s iPhone Contract with Her Teenaged Son

BY Tris Hussey

Published 1 Jan 2013

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You’ve made leap, taken the plunge, done the unthinkable. You’ve given your teenager an iPhone (or any smartphone) with a phone contract. Interestingly enough, I just did this very thing over the holidays when my wife and I gave my ten year old son and fifteen year old daughter our old iPhone 4s. My son’s is essentially an iPod touch, but my daughter’s is a real phone. So when I read Janelle Burley Hofman’s rules for her son’s iPhone, I thought I’d ask my daughter what she thought about it.

This post by Janelle Burley Hofman and the letter to her son is making the rounds today, so before getting into a teenager’s perspective, here is the letter:

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

  1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?
  2. I will always know the password.
  3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.
  4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
  5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
  6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
  7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
  8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
  9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
  10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably me or your father.
  11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
  12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.
  13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
  14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.
  15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
  16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
  17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
  18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas!



On Cult of Mac and TNW there is some good author commentary about the rules, but you know neither of them have the kid’s perspective.

I’ll say from the get go that I have an amazing and brilliant daughter. She’s an excellent student and very tech savvy (yes, yes apples not falling far from trees, etc). My wife and I got her an iPod touch a few years ago, which nearly died a watery death in the lake, but I managed to rescue and has been limping along for a couple years now. So when I got my iPhone 5 I thought passing down to my daughter with a contract plan would be good thing for her. As much as I wanted to give her a plan with lots of features and data, that just wasn’t in the cards. She has a basic plan, no data (the options from my carrier were laughable at best), but a great phone. I shared the article with my daughter, and I have to say my daughter’s maturity and smarts shine through in her comment back. This is what she has to say:

It makes a lot of sense to me. Totally justified too; you can’t become completely dependent on it and you should actually live the experiences not just document them through pictures and video

Nope, nothing like, that’s unfair or too restrictive, or whatever. I think the whole no device overnight is extreme. I like to listen to music to fall asleep and, I think, is a privilege that should be loosened so teens can listen to music to sleep, read books, etc…but if you stay up all night trying to get three stars on all the Angry Birds levels, well…

What do you think of these rules?