Teenage boy gets 18-point contract with his new iPhone

Jamillah Knowles for The Next Web:

Smart mom, Janelle Burley Hofman has published a document that may secure you a full-on teenage eye roll, but it could also help young ones learn to be responsible. Amusingly it’s not just a few core principles, but an 18 point contract for her 13-year-old son Gregory to adhere to as the lucky recipient of an iPhone.

As a former teenager I bristle at some of this stuff, but as the parent of two teenagers and a tween I can’t help but admire Janelle’s thoroughness here. Really well-thought out, reasonable guidelines for a kid getting their first phone.

What do you say – is she being reasonable by making him stick to these rules?



  • John David

    I agree with some of this & it’s a novel way of getting the point across, but when you get into things like #15: about the choice of music to listen to, that is censorship and a level of “parenting” I can’t agree with at all!

    • Peter Cohen

      I’ve told my kids countless times not to listen to the same shit that their friends do. Fortunately they’ve taken my advice and listen to what they want. Don’t disagree wtih her at all.

    • Lukas

      She’s not preventing him from listening to crap, she’s telling him to also listen to some unusual things: “expand your horizons”. It’s not censorship, and it seems like a good suggestion to me (perhaps not necessarily a good “rule”, but that’s semantics).

    • http://twitter.com/billyrazzle Billy Razzle

      You must listen to crap too. That was the best rule of all. I’d have put it on there twice.

      • John David

        As a former record store owner & some one who has been involved with/in music most of my life. I will put my taste, knowledge and exposure to all forms of music against yours anytime my friend!

        • John David

          Sorry for the double post. Not sure what happened as I was editing before posting the 1st reply.

        • http://twitter.com/billyrazzle Billy Razzle

          Did you gain your “taste, knowledge and exposure to all forms of music ” by listening to what all of the thirteen year olds around you were listening to? Not everyone can own a record store.

      • John David

        As a former record store owner and someone who has been involved in/with music & musicians most of my life, I’ll put my experience, knowledge and exposure to all forms of music against yours anytime my friend!

    • John David

      Sorry gentlemen, can’t agree. They should listen to as much of any kind of music they want to. I’m not saying that they should only listen to what they’re friends do. What I’m saying is that they should listen to what they want to.

      I think you gents forget what it was like to be that age and the independence that your taste in music gave you.

      Sorry, but I can’t disagree with you guys more on this point.

      • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

        Bend over and spread em, girlShow-w-w me those p**** pearls Rub that a** and play with that c*** You know I like that freaky s*** I like the way you lick the champagne glass It makes me wanna stick my d*** in your a** How hard? Hard like a rock, When you make that p**** pop!

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

      The kid is 13. I will be making certain decisions for my daughter at 13 as well.

      that is censorship

      No, it’s not. It’s parenting.

  • samdchuck

    Reading these points, this kid won’t be able to use a cell phone for what it is made, he can’t take it with him, the only time he seems to be allowed to use it is when he’s home.

    Also, no porn? Why do parents think they can keep their kids away from porn?

    • stsk

      Re: porn. As Robin Williams put it “America was founded by the Puritans – people who were so uptight even the Brits couldn’t stand to have them around.”

    • Lukas

      Yeah, when I got to the “no porn” rule, I had to laugh. Telling a (male) teenager not to watch porn must be one of the most naïve things you can do.

      Probably would be more productive to just explain to them that porn isn’t a realistic depiction of relationships or sex, and should not be taken as a template for interacting with actual women. That way, you’ll have some idea of what they’re doing, instead of just forcing them to hide it from you.

  • John Meleyer

    Hand the phone at 7:30 p.m. On schooldays and 9 p.m. On weekends? You suck mom…

  • stsk

    The areas in which parents THINK they can control their kids behavior are the first areas in which the kids will learn how to circumvent that authority. Anyone who thinks they can genuinely control their children doesn’t remember their own childhood, and will, in turn learn about unintended consequences. Successful parenting is about nuance, not just rules – about encouraging self-regulation, not how to follow orders.

    This woman is smugly delusional.

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

      This woman is smugly delusional.

      Since it’s difficult to set rules and enforce discipline, by all means, let’s abandon any and all attempts to lead by example or establish a system of rewards and punishments to encourage desired behaviour, and verbally assault those who try.

      • lkalliance

        I often hear from parents of teenagers, that “all teenagers do [action parent doesn't like], you can’t stop them from doing it.”

        This is a true statement, but that doesn’t mean we as parents shouldn’t still try to teach them not to do [action parent doesn't like]. The discipline a parent exercises with her child — and the rebellion of the child against that discipline — are also part of growing up.

  • http://twitter.com/ofenzasojo Miguel de Oliveira

    I think she’s getting the exposure she hoped to get. This is clearly written for the internet. She’s just showing off how clever and great she is. A kid will respect you if you act truthfully. This isn’t genuine, and no kid wants it to be public how his parents make him demands. This is actually quite passive agressive. No joy. She’s also preaching everyone on how to use technology.

  • lkalliance

    I think it’s fair of her to ask these things. I read Peter’s column a couple of weeks ago about getting rid of his smartphone (I think it was Peter) and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then, and I’m very much considering it. I feel better about myself when I put my smartphone down.

    When my daughter turned about five years old or so, I discussed with my wife starting to attend services regularly. I am not a spiritual person, I’ve never gone with any regularity. Almost never, actually. But if I wanted her to have a choice about her spiritual future, I felt I had to do this. It’s easy to make the choice not to go, especially as a teenager or young adult. So I felt she had to have regular exposure now.

    I see this as the same thing. It will be very easy to get caught in the “I must have a phone and use it for everything” mindset when she is a teenager or young adult. If I am able to help her experience a lifestyle where the phone is minimized, a lifestyle with an emphasis on human-to-human interaction and where information isn’t a google away, and if she can get comfortable with such a lifestyle, then that will be a choice she can make later.

    As parents it’s not our job to be fair, and sometimes it’s not our job to just pick the fights we can win. It’s about helping our children find it in themselves to make good choices, or choices at all. Once we’re so linked in, I fear that the it’s almost impossible to extricate ourselves; we lose much of the ability to choose.

    • Didrikanna

      How do you give her “a choice about her spiritual future” by going to church, unless you plan on consistently visiting houses of worship of different religions (and discuss non-religous spirituality as well as analysing the need and validity of spirituality).

      Sounds more like you want to hinder her choice.

      • lkalliance

        That’s ridiculous. How can she choose whether or not to be spiritual of any denomination without being exposed to spirituality? Making a decision to commit to a specific religion is something I can’t model for. Making a commitment to spirituality — or not — is something I can. The rest comes as it comes.

        • Didrikanna

          She’s bound to come in contact with religion and spirituality and some point.

          There is a reason that most people have the same religion that their parents do. If you take her to the the religious services of one specific religion…guess what, she’s already been conditioned to thinking that that’s what religion and spirituality is.

          • lkalliance

            She is bound to come into contact with lots and lots and lots of things at some point. As a parent I can only anticipate some of those things, and make judgments as best I can about which are important, which can wait, what I can help with and what would hurt.

            Spirituality is important. What form that spirituality takes is less important, but I think there is a lot that is positive to be offered. My own religion is my best starting point, it’s a place I can be confident and can best offer to guide as needed, and where I can concentrate on that guidance rather than concentrating on learning new stuff. As such she is initially limited by my own experience, that is true, but the tradeoff is worth it.

            At the very least it sets the stage earlier for discussions about spirituality, her relationship to it in whatever form it may grow to take (if she would like one), with some experience behind it: the practice of it ceases to be abstract.

            The woman in the article is making a similar statement, just in this different arena. In creating this contract she’s broaching the subjects of commitment, responsibility, respect, privacy and interpersonal relationships. I agree with her that some of what she’s espousing are life skills that suffer when one’s attention is locked onto a screen. Just as in the spirituality discussion we’re having, the son is being subject to the values of the parent…but it’s a starting point from which conversation can start.

          • Didrikanna

            “Spirituality is important.”

            See, so you’ve already decided that for her. If you want to take her to your religious services…than go ahead, but don’t lie to yourself that it’s to give her more choices. Because the one thing I can promise you that it will do, is forever colour her views of religion and spirituality.

          • lkalliance

            No, I’ve decided that in general, not just for her. What would be dishonest is to create values that I don’t believe in to impart to my child based on some kind of fairness or desire to keep the slate blank. Parents decide all sorts of things for their children, until the children have gained their own voice.

            If I’ve served my daughter well, then she will not be afraid to question me about it. She will not be afraid to question me about our religion. She will not be afraid to express dissatisfaction with it or with spirituality in general.

            Similarly, the young gentleman receiving the iPhone will, I hope, have the voice to debate the merits of the contract with his parents, even if he isn’t given the option to negotiate them.

          • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

            You seem to be using a pejorative form of the term “spirituality”.

          • Didrikanna

            I think that your prejudice makes you read something in to what I wrote that I didn’t write.

        • Lukas

          If there’s literally no chance that people would become spiritual on their own, maybe you should consider the possibility that there’s something seriously wrong with your brand of spirituality. Forcing things on people because these things are so absurd that nobody would ever happen upon them on their own seems kind of strange.

          • lkalliance

            I said nothing of the sort. As parents we sometimes take our kids to activities based on how we perceive the value of them, and of the role they might play in their lives. Whether they may or may not have done them anyway is beside the point. I’ve taken my daughter to musical theater. She may like it and it might inspire her creativity. I take her to science museums and to the zoo and to the aquarium. Education is important and inspiring a curiosity about how the world works is a good thing.

            She might do these things anyway. She would probably learn the same things in school eventually. What of it? These are still worthwhile things to which to expose her.

  • Iknow50now

    I agree with the parents. Hey, the kid is 13 not 18.

  • Huw Martin

    It was a gift though, or should have been. Instead the woman has attached a contract with it, frankly seems immature.

  • http://twitter.com/kgbraund Kyle Braund

    I like this Mom!

  • MrPhotoEd

    Much respect for the mom. She not only gave a great gift (an iPhone 5 to use), but she also gave him a life lesson in being responsible by setting up guidelines with the option for negotiation to modify if the son can come up with a good argument for modification.

    Just a thought

  • JDSoCal

    @theloop’s one-point iPhone contract with @beardsdaughter: 1) Bring me cold Heineken upon request.

  • eugenekim

    Finally, some actual parenting. I think what most people are missing is that this is a contract based on love and concern of well-being for one’s child, not some cold, heartless, liability-limiting lawyer-speak. What is actually news-worthy is the amount of vile poured out at a mom trying to teach her child to behave responsibly and respectfully, thereby proving her point, especially numbers 7, 8, and 9.

  • http://www.aichon.com/ Brad

    Generally good, with a few odd points. I think I would have distilled it down to a fewer number of principles, rather than enumerated rules and guidelines, however. For instance, cut out all the details about taking pictures of junk, texting rude things, and other items of that sort, then instead just say, “Never use it for anything that shouldn’t be said or done in public”. She said something to that effect, but adding all sorts of rules afterwards just gives a kid an excuse to find loopholes or to feel as if a parent is being unfair for punishing them for something that wasn’t spelled out with the other rules. It’s better to lay down principles and teach them to abide by the spirit of them, rather than the letter.

    Of course, I’m saying this as a non-parent who’s simply recalling my own experiences as I was being raised.

  • Luděk Roleček

    Great way to ruin joy from a Christmas present. Now when “clever mom” got the exposure she surely wanted, I would love to read an article about what the boy thinks about this.

    Of course some points are reasonable but some are just … ridiculous.

  • Domicinator

    So, I have two things to say about this as a parent of two boys:

    1) I agree with most of what it says. These are important life lessons. I know a lot of grown ups that are totally rude with their phones in public and otherwise. I can’t stand it when people can’t have an in person discussion with me without compulsively texting other people the whole time we’re talking. It’s ridiculous. And people that post 20 pictures/videos to Facebook a day need to get a life. Try just watching your kids being cute or playing nicely together instead of trying to constantly document everything.

    2) All that being said, the parent in this situation needs to check him/herself a bit. It is now 2013. A lot of homes don’t even HAVE land lines anymore. And while your child texting friends all the time can really be annoying, it’s just the modern day version of the same old problem. When I was growing up, I was constantly getting in trouble for tying up the phone line every night talking to friends or girlfriends, and my dad, as a matter of principle and also stubbornness, refused to get call waiting. Later on when we got a computer with AOL, I was constantly in chat rooms. If we weren’t yelling at our kids for texting, we’d be yelling at them for being on the phone or AIM every waking moment.

    It’s the same problem, different time period. Smartphones are probably a bit more problematic because it’s all that stuff I mentioned above in your pocket at all times. But it’s not going to go away. I do commend this parent for trying to teach her kid to be a decent human being. But she needs a little bit of a reality check. He is going to text/call a lot more people than just his parents.

    • lkalliance

      I don’t think it’s a black-or-white situation. He’s going to push against the boundaries she has set, and sometimes he’ll be caught and sometimes he won’t. And she as well will see her position evolve, I expect, as her son either does or doesn’t show respect for at least the spirit of the contract. It’s a living document, I would expect.

  • KvH

    For teaching a young kid etiquette it’s pretty good. Good to give them a list they can refer to rather than just talking about it. Only one i disagree with is kid not taking it with them. I’d change to they can take it, but it should be turned off. Mainly just for emergencies. Can use something like iOS Find My Friend to spot check that they have it off. Also check the phone bill for call times.

  • http://twitter.com/Moeskido Moeskido

    I could see only two or three points in that contract I’d disagree strongly with. I’ve chosen not to have kids, and I have to admire the fortitude of any person capable of dealing with the sociopathy some pre-teens and tweens are capable of.

    I love the idea of setting guidelines for children. It’s been awhile since that was the norm, I think, and we now have at least one generation populated by self-centered, attention-challenged drama queens as a result.

    I have to laugh at anyone who bristles at the idea of setting guidelines, or claims “censorship” of any kind in this context. As though their baseline for child-rearing is to give a kid a gift or some junk food every time he/she whines about something.

  • lateplate