On Christmas day, my wife Chandra and I gave our (almost) 14-year-old son an iPhone for Christmas. After a year’s worth of thought and consideration we decided that now was the time to do this. Handheld technology brings with it a wealth of great benefits but also opens the door to risks, temptations, and dangers. Because of this we decided to have an intentional conversation with our son and to put in place an agreement guiding his use of the phone. We consulted several resources for how to do this including Common Sense Media and an article by Janell Burley Hoffman. What follows is a conversation that we had with him and the contract that he agreed to. I am hopeful that this may benefit you as you think through how you and your family will use technology.
You are the recipient of a brand new iPhone. We have been considering getting you a phone for some time and have decided that the time is now. Technology brings great benefits but also risks and dangers. It is our responsibility as your parents to teach you how to use technology wisely, safely, and to not be ruled by it. Because of this, your new iPhone comes with some strings attached. In order for you to continue to use this device you must agree to and abide by the following rules:
- This phone belongs to our family and is not owned exclusively by you. You are the primary user but not the sole owner of this phone.
- We will always know the password to your phone.
- If one of us calls your phone, answer it. Do not ever ignore a call or text from Mom or Dad.
- Your phone must be turned off at 9:00 pm every evening. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again in the morning. It also needs to stay in your bag and be turned off during the school day.
- If your phone falls into the toilet, is dropped on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. This responsibility is part of becoming an adult.
- Do not ever use this phone to look at inappropriate or pornographic content. The Internet is full of things that are dangerous and illegal. Because it is our responsibility to protect you, we will regularly check to make sure that nothing that you are viewing will be harmful to you.
- We have installed parental controls on your iPhone in order to protect you. We will keep the password to these controls.
- Do not ever use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another person. And do not use this device to participate in conversations that are hurtful to others.
- Do not text, email, or say anything with this device you would not say in person.
- Do not text, email, or say anything to a person that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room.
- Do not prioritize a person that you are texting with over a person that is physically present. When you are in a public social situation, silence your phone and put it away. (Especially in a restaurant or when we are eating as a family.)
- Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you may be tempted to do this. This behavior is risky, foolish, illegal, and will ruin your teens/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.
- Do not write anything through this device that you would not want others to see. Anything that you text, email, or post may be seen by people across the world. What you write stays on the Internet forever. There is no real anonymity on the web.
- Please don’t forget how to have face to face conversations. The ability to relate to people face to face in life is an important life skill.
- The use of this phone is a great privilege. If you violate any part of this agreement, we reserve the right to take this device away. We will talk with you about it, be open to listening, but also allow you to experience consequences.
We love you. We hope you enjoy this awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas! We look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.
Mom and Dad
What would you add to this? Feel free to comment!