By now, many of you will have read the article doing the rounds about the American mom who gave her 13-year-old an iPhone for Christmas, with an 18-point contract.
She begins by saying:
Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good and responsible 13-year-old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.
I love you madly and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.
From there, Janelle outlines 18 “strings” that are attached to his ownership of the phone. Some are rules, but mostly there is a lot of advice to her teenager about how he should live his life.
Australian psychologist and parenting expert Collett Smart, who I respect a lot, is a big supporter. On her Facebook page, she wrote:
But a quick look at mum Jannelle’s twitter feed (@JanellBH) and you can see she’s also receiving some backlash about being too controlling.
When I read her post, I certainly thought she made some nice points, especially:
- Leave the phone at home sometimes, just because … Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.
- Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
- 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.
But I also felt uncomfortable about some of her requirements, namely:
- It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you.*
- I will always know the password.
- Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever.
*This is despite her son being expected to replace the phone if he loses it.
The password issue is a particular sticking point for me. Collett Smart recommends parents always know their child’s password. Personally, I feel this is appropriate when they are children and tweens, but I can’t see it working for teenagers. In my situation, I know that insisting on having my teen’s password to her Facebook and Tumblr sites would be detrimental to our relationship. That’s not to say I haven’t looked behind the scenes when I’ve had the opportunity and I’ve felt the situation warranted it, but that becomes less and less as she gets older (she is almost 15).
I have never had access to her mobile phone, and would feel uncomfortable reading her text messages. It is her one truly private means of communication with her friends. I am less concerned about monitoring text messages because they are not published online.
Obviously, Janelle is expecting that this contract will work well for her family and her son has said he is happy with it and his mum does give him freedom. What isn’t made clear is whether she will be flexible on the rules as her son gets older and closer to adulthood, or if this contract holds until he is 18. In my very short time of having a teenager, I have discovered that I am required to constantly reassess my rules and expectations.
Would something like this work in your family? Do you “own” your teenager’s phone? Do you or would you like to have access to passwords?
We would love to hear a variety of opinions and thoughts on managing your teenager’s smart phone use and ownership.