January 2, 2013

13 Year-Old’s iPhone Comes With 18-Point Life Lesson

As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed more and more opportunities to begin stories and/or rants with the prelude: “When I was a kid…”

Granted I’m many years away from sitting on my front porch and cursing the neighborhood children, but I’m just old enough to begin to notice that things are definitely changing…and not always to my liking.

However, as a premature Old Man, I heartily approve of the actions of one Janelle Burley Hofmann.

It’s a story that is quickly grabbing attention across the interwebs today, a story about a 13-year old boy’s first iPhone and his mother’s attempts to make sure he stays out of trouble with modern technology.

In short, young Gregory was made to sign an 18-point contract before he could accept his Christmas gift from his parents: A brand new iPhone.

As the story goes, the wise and witty Mother Hofmann penned a contract and made her son sign it before accepting his gift. This contract is now available online, either as a trophy of good parenting or a template for other similarly minded parents.

What makes this contract so special (aside from Mother Hofmann’s willingness to speak directly to her son, using some minor swears where applicable) is the timeless lessons contained within.

Some of the points are geared directly towards a 13-year old boy’s brain, such as point 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.”

There are other points that speak directly to a child in school, such as point 5:

“It does not go to school with you.”

Yet, even in these points, there are some great truths, which can be and should be applied to those of us who are over 18 years.

Point 5 continues: “Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill.”

Point 7 admonishes the young son to honesty, saying:

“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.”

Points 13 and 15 encourage her young son to both appreciate the time he’s been given away from modern technology while also appreciating the great gift he’s now able to hold in the palm of his hand.

“Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything,” reads point 13.

As a music fan, point 15 is my most favorite:

“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.”

This kid has a mom who encourages him to download music.

How cool is that?

Like most my age and older, the thought of ever owning a cell phone (much less something as sophisticated as an iPhone) was far beyond me. At this point cell phones were still mostly known as “Car Phones” and had their own antennas and glowing green rubber keys.

I received my very first cell phone when I was 17, a senior in high school. I, too, had to agree to a set of rules before taking ownership in the bare-bones, free with contract candy bar phone:

Rule 1: Only use the phone in the case of an extreme emergency (minutes weren’t cheap, mind you).

Rule 2: Don’t lose it. Keep it in your glove compartment.

Today, I see kids younger than 10 walking around with iPhones, carrying on conversations with (I can only assume) their grandmothers. Why kids have the need to speak to another other on the cell phone outside of their elementary school, I have no idea.

Just as my generation has and the generation before me had previously done, today’s youth will grow up to have a very different relationship with technology. Many had expected my generation to know all there was to know about the Internet and Web Sites. Today, even toddlers know how to control iPads (friggin’ iPads!) before they can even adequately explain what the hell an iPad is.

This is why I think more parents should be willing to put the brakes on their children’s interactions with cell phones and modern technology.

Mother Hofmann immediately puts her foot down in this contract, saying in point 1: “It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?”

Point 2 is equally brilliant, and equally important:

“I will always know the password.”

There’s a lot out there for children to learn and get dirty with.

Yet, it is the belief of this Old Man of 30 years that unless these children learn some of the basics— basics such as an appreciation for what they’ve got and how to interact with people the “real world”— all the technology in the world will not lead them to their fullest potential.

But then again, what do I know?

I’m only a gen-x’er.

We were supposed to be the worst generation of all.

Image Credit: Gladskikh Tatiana / Shutterstock

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