We just spent Christmas in the company of my 12-year-old niece.
Six months away from being a teenager – but in attitude she’s already there.
And the soundtrack while sitting next to her was the click-click-clicking from her phone, as she texted a running commentary of her festive season to her friends.
Probably saying something like:
“I’m so bored.”
“God my relatives are really old.”
“My two little cousins are so snotty and annoying.”
So when I read about this US mum’s contract to her 13-year-old son, when giving him his first phone, my interest was piqued.
But I’d love to know what the parents of teenagers think, because I fully accept I’m 7 years away from having to deal with all those moods and hormones, so my reactions might not be realistic ones.
Comments on the Huff Post website are a mixture of parents applauding the mum’s ingenuity, and others (parents and otherwise) accusing her of being a control freak.
You can make up your own minds.
These are the 18 rules – and my thoughts on them (I might not be qualified to comment, but it’s my bloody blog and I’m going to anyway!)
1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?
Made me laugh – and very true.
2. I will always know the password.
Yep. Sensible for the safety of a child. Why should a 13-year-old be getting calls/texts his parents don’t know about?
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.
Good in theory. Not sure how you could police this. Kid could ignore calls – and just claim he didn’t hear the phone ring (or that he had it on silent because of rule number 11).
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. If you would not make a call to someone’s landline, 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.
Yes, yes, yes *jumps up and down with excitement*. I dread sitting opposite my boys at the dinner table, seeing the tops of their heads as they text away to their mates and grunt at my attempts at conversation.
However, I do think to make this fair, mum and dad should also switch off their mobiles, put down their iPads/laptops/etc and enjoy family time together. Otherwise it’s “do as I say, not as I do”.
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.
I think schools should be able to confiscate phones at the door, and give them back to pupils at the end of the day. I wouldn’t allow my boys to take them to school. But I don’t think all parents would agree, as it’s mainly paranoia about children’s safety which prompts them to give phones in the first place.
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.
Only fair. I think I’d also set a monthly limit for his phone bill, and tell him if he went over that amount he should pay for his calls too.
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.
A good lesson for life – not just on the telephone but off it as well.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
A bit similar to rule number 7, but nothing I’d disagree with. I guess she’s worrying about cyber-bullying.
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.
Getting a bit repetitive. I agree with what she’s saying – but rule 7, 8 and 9 could be rolled into one rule.
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.
Well, I think most parents of boys have the ‘no porn’ rule but ……
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.
Funnily enough I was repeating this rule to Mr G, saying how rude I thought it was when people stare at their phone during conversations. What did I get? Nods and grunts as he didn’t even look up from his iPad!
A rule that many grown-ups could do with following – never mind kids.
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.
Why doesn’t she go full-on and ask him not to make a sex tape? This is a sign of the times. I can see how the internet has made parents worry about this – but surely mentioning it just plants an idea in a teenager’s mind?
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.
What if her son is a budding film director or photographer? Don’t see any harm in him taking a zillion pictures and videos. But I know what she’s trying to say – live your life yourself, not through your phone.
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).
Ditto to what I’ve just said about rule 13. Again, I think many adults should do this from time to time.
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.
I’d love my niece to listen to more than Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. But how can you make that a rule? When I was her age, I listened to the same pop idols all my friends did. Took me until my 20s before I widened my musical tastes.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
I think she’s worrying a little too much about the quality of games he’ll be playing. Sure some of them will be educational. This wouldn’t be an issue for me.
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.
Made me laugh how many people objected on the Huff Post website to her ‘Talk to a stranger’ suggestion. They took it far too seriously, and failed to see her point, which is not to miss out on new experiences and the chance to meet new people.
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 and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.
Good to remind him – after such a long list – that she’s not expecting perfection from him. The kid’s only human. And after 18 commandments like these, he’s likely to be terrified.
So what do you think?
I shudder at the number of teenagers (and younger) whose parents get them phones, pay the bills and regularly upgrade the technology – without setting any rules or boundaries.
Has this mum gone too far – or is she justified?
(And here is the mum herself, Janell Burley Hofmann, talking about the contract with son Gregory)