In this day and age there is pretty much no getting around the fact that your kid is going to want a smart phone. Of course, while kids desire smart phones (at increasingly younger ages), many parents aren’t nearly as crazy about the idea. One such parent, Janell Hoffman, was recently featured on “Good Morning America” for having made her thirteen-year-old son sign an eighteen point rules and regulations agreement before he received a smart phone for Christmas.
First, let me say that I love the idea of making your child understand up front that owning a smart phone isn’t to be taken lightly, and that he or she must use it responsibly. When Annie is old enough to want her own phone (which will be way too soon), I am definitely going to impress upon her that having one is serious business. Hoffman’s agreement definitely does this, and many of her clauses are terrific, such as:
“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.”
“Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.”
“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.”
As much as I agree with the intent behind the agreement though, I’m not sure it’s perfect as written. First, clause fifteen, which tells her son to “download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff,” seems out of place. When it comes to picking your battles, I say focus on the important stuff (like not sexting or bullying) and not whether your kid is listening to good music. Besides, who’s to say that the music his friends listen to is bad anyway?
Second, for this agreement to work Hoffman is going to have to be 100% consistent in enforcing her rules and regulations, and I wonder if some of her stricter rules, like never taking the phone to school or turning it in promptly every night at 7:30, are going to prove to be difficult to be uphold.
All quibbles aside though, I think the thing that will foul up these agreements the most will be parents’ inability to model responsible behavior. Hoffman expects her son to “turn it off, silence it, put it away in public especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being,” but if she is unable to do the same her son will not respect the rule. Along the same lines, if she wants her son to leave his “phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision,” she will have to do so as well. This may not be an issue for Hoffman, but for some parents taking a long, hard look at their own smart phone usage will be the hardest part of teaching their children to be responsible with their phones.
So is a smart phone agreement a good idea? I think it is, so long as you feel confident you can enforce your rules 100% of the time and model the kind of behavior you want to see in your child. What do you think? Would you have a smart phone contract with your child?