My daughter is 7. She doesn’t have a cell phone, and though I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Of course she doesn’t have a cell phone,” lots of 7-year-olds do have phones nowadays, especially in big cities filled with neurotic people who worry all the time. I do, however, allow my daughter to play games on my cell phone from time to time, and we have very specific rules she has to follow when doing so.
1. She knows she’s allowed to download any game as long as it is free and in the “family” category, but she almost always still asks my permission first, which I adore.
2. She knows she can’t purchase anything on the phone without asking me first. We always try games that aren’t free before we buy them.
3. There is a time limit to game-playing, and she can’t play a game any old time she wants to. Other more important things must be complete first, like homework, dinner and talking to each other.
4. If she complains when it’s time to put the phone away or tries to grab it from me, she will lose her phone privileges. She knows it’s my phone and that I let her use it.
Those are the only rules I’ve established so far since my daughter doesn’t have a phone on her person to use for talking or (eek!) texting. But obviously as she gets older she will have a phone of her own at some point (age 12 maybe?) and we will have to discuss rules for its use. This list by Janell Burley Hofmann is as good as any I’ve ever seen, and we’d all be wise to use it as a template, not just to create an outline for how we want our children to use their phones, but to govern our own behavior as well:
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 7:30 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 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 and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.
FOMO! I’ll have to add that to my personal list of words and phrases to start using in ’13. So many of the ideas above resonate with me, especially feeling like I don’t have to photograph every interesting thing I see or share every thought I have via social media. How many of us catch ourselves constantly trying to craft our own thoughts from the outset in status update or tweet form, rather than experiencing an organic thought in free form, then molding it or truncating it later? That’s a dangerous habit to be sure! We’re robbing ourselves of the breadth of our own minds and imaginations. The turning of the year is a perfect time to remind yourself not to give in to the pressure to constantly produce chatter for social channels. (See also the “taking blogging back” and “slow-blogging movements” for more inspiration.)
I have a friend who said her resolution for 2013 is to stop seeking validation via social media. A noble goal! (And hopefully a no bull goal.) I have definite ideas about how to free myself from the machines that bind a bit more in 2013. Do you have any plans to change the way you and/or your family use technology and social media?
Photo credit: iStock