A Mom’s iPhone Contract with Her Teenaged Son

SAM 0772  2012 12 02 at 08 22 55

You’ve made leap, taken the plunge, done the unthinkable. You’ve given your teenager an iPhone (or any smartphone) with a phone contract. Interestingly enough, I just did this very thing over the holidays when my wife and I gave my ten year old son and fifteen year old daughter our old iPhone 4s. My son’s is essentially an iPod touch, but my daughter’s is a real phone. So when I read Janelle Burley Hofman’s rules for her son’s iPhone, I thought I’d ask my daughter what she thought about it.

This post by Janelle Burley Hofman and the letter to her son is making the rounds today, so before getting into a teenager’s perspective, here is the letter:

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & 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 & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

  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 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. 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 & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas!



On Cult of Mac and TNW there is some good author commentary about the rules, but you know neither of them have the kid’s perspective.

I’ll say from the get go that I have an amazing and brilliant daughter. She’s an excellent student and very tech savvy (yes, yes apples not falling far from trees, etc). My wife and I got her an iPod touch a few years ago, which nearly died a watery death in the lake, but I managed to rescue and has been limping along for a couple years now. So when I got my iPhone 5 I thought passing down to my daughter with a contract plan would be good thing for her. As much as I wanted to give her a plan with lots of features and data, that just wasn’t in the cards. She has a basic plan, no data (the options from my carrier were laughable at best), but a great phone. I shared the article with my daughter, and I have to say my daughter’s maturity and smarts shine through in her comment back. This is what she has to say:

It makes a lot of sense to me. Totally justified too; you can’t become completely dependent on it and you should actually live the experiences not just document them through pictures and video

Nope, nothing like, that’s unfair or too restrictive, or whatever. I think the whole no device overnight is extreme. I like to listen to music to fall asleep and, I think, is a privilege that should be loosened so teens can listen to music to sleep, read books, etc…but if you stay up all night trying to get three stars on all the Angry Birds levels, well…

What do you think of these rules?

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  • High horse

    Dumb. No reason why a 13 year old needs a cell phone. I didn’t have one until I was 17 and some may contend that even that is too soon.

    • wolf39us

      Agreed… I didn’t have a cell until 19

      • Deose

        Well, that’s what you get for being 19 when the cell phone came out.

    • Tom

      I disagree. I see your point, however times are changing. Phones in general have become cheaper as they have advanced in quality and many young people’s lives revolve around Facebook, Twitter etc these days. When you were 17 I assume not many people had a cell phone, so it was not necessary to have one. However these days, if a young person does not have a cell phone, they dont have much of a social life, in terms of not being able to access what their friends are putting on social networks.

      Although some of the terms in the agreement were a tiny bit harsh, this woman is just being a good mother. If more parents did this, cases like ‘Amanda Todd’ could be avoided. I would always answer my phone when my parents called as i know they’d be extremely worried if i didn’t.

      Very interesting article. :)

  • Tora

    Sounds reasonable to me, and like the mother stated, she expects them to be broken and to have a mature discussion when that happens. She’s treating her son like an adult whilst also setting boundaries since they’re still young. Proper parenting is unheard of these days.
    I’m 24 now, and had my first phone when I was 12, it was a Phillips C12 and predated the Nokia 3310. These days phones are crazy, I couldn’t imagine giving a 12 year old a smart phone without setting reasonable rules; it’s either that or restrict them to not having a phone or giving them a basic phone.
    For the record, I would rather have my child with a phone so that I can contact them or they can contact me. My parents used to have to go out and search for me if I wasn’t home on time :D

    • Kimk69

      Reasonable? Get out of here. Yeah, there has to be some rules for sure with a young teenager but that’s a joke.

    • RandomGamer342

      The rules she’s set don’t treat her son like an adult at all. If she was treating him like an adult, she’d trust him with moderation he’d put in himself, she wouldn’t make tons of arbitrary rules. I had the iphone 3G when i was 12; i should know this.

      2? That seems like a complete breach of privacy
      3? Makes sense, but it’ll just get used against him in times where he can’t answer/genuinely doesn’t notice(with a chance of her freaking out as if he was hit by a bus)
      5? What if the only way you can reach someone is texting, or if you need to reach someone in school breaks/after school? This conflicts a bit with #3
      14? Doesn’t that remove the entire point of having a phone(to be reachable when you’re needed?). This conflicts with #3
      15? Ridiculously arbitrary and kindof common sense
      16? Ridiculously arbitrary
      17? See the two above

      I’ve never had any rules placed on my phone usage, and i’ve never really misused it either. I had my 3G stolen from me in a situation that was out of my control, and we got that replaced with a 3GS afterwards which lasted me for two and a half years.
      Sure, there were times where i sat at night with the phone, but it never affected my sleeping(rather, it helped it). Having the phone available whenever i needed it has been extremely important as well. The times where it was taken away from me just led to me having trouble sleeping, since i was forced to go to sleep long before i actually had the ability to, and later on it’s just led to me not being able to have important conversations, sometimes conversations that could affect life/death of someone

      These rules place trust in the boy as if he was 5; not as if he was an adult. A young teenager with any kind of responsibility wouldn’t need rules; and a young one without would never need as many as this.

      • jaybeans821

        totally agree,as a 13 year old the only 2 things i would say is 1)dont mess up in school with it…2)if you get in ANY trouble due to the iphone then its gone until we feel like you can get it back….basically give the kid a gift and trial and error it, let him learn on his own…

      • Rogue0311

        Probably not being treated as an adult because the kid is 10 years old. NOT an adult. How about that, huh?

        • RandomGamer342

          I find it funny when people go to troll comment sections without actually reading the damn article in the first place

          To quote the letter:
          “You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift.”

    • EgoAleSum

      If your son has to sign a contract with you before he can get a phone, then it’s completely broken.

      You have to educate children, make them reason on what is right/allowed and what is wrong/forbidden, not close them into a cage made of strict rules.

      Do you really need to make him sign a contract where he gets obliged not to disturb people late at night? Isn’t that obvious when you are educating someone to be polite?

      Being adult also mean understanding that sometimes you have to make exceptions to the rules.

  • Rebby

    Stupid Contract… Even worse that AT&T ….

  • A1D3N

    F**k your list, Hitler. I’d rather save up and buy my own.

  • JCT

    cell phones were the size of a break when i was a kid and expensive my dad had one no kid had one but my smallest sister got hers at 11 takes it everywhere, and its her life but she is an idiot so maybe thats why

  • lawl

    would of told her to keep the phone

    • jaybeans821

      thats the first thing that came to my mind

    • Joe

      Would “HAVE”

  • http://twitter.com/HiTekkSteff Stephaughn Alston

    I can’t really speak on this because I’m not a parent but I do think some of those things are overboard. Should’ve just got him a damn flip phone, iPhone’s are addicting because it’s just so much too do!

  • pirredude

    i am 16 and i have a cell phone but never use it so there is no reason wy a 13 year old shold gave one, and with somme of those rules i can agree other are stupit, i think he should get mor privecy and his mother should trust him more.

    • Yep

      When I was your age I used my phone constatnly. Again this depends not e persons social life.

    • Jerry

      I’m assuming your current phone has no spellcheck. If it does, I recommend using it so you don’t look ‘stupit’.

  • John

    (A gift vs. a loan. I think it’s possible to sort out the reasons.)
    It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?
    (Privacy is a personal matter. It just is.)
    I will always know the password.

    -(( I would allow my kid to bring it with them to school. If they’re mature to handle all the other criteria, they should be able to handle it at school as well. I myself have encountered many times throughout the week where my phone was needed to help me in school i.e. a quick search, short review, etc. Although, this is hoping they would be like me and not one of those kids who text in class perpetually))
    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.

    -There are 3 rules I don’t agree with. These rules aren’t in order however.

  • chungpham2004

    it’s sad to see that we’re now slave to our digital and communication devices. it’s sure great in respect to convenience but I now miss the feelings of opening an envelope from a long distance friend, a warm hug or a handshake when friend come and visit just to have a conversation.

  • Maxtor

    My 3 year old son has an iPhone 4. Never too young. You learn faster when your young. I take my iPad with me outta town all the time and its the first thing he asks for when I get home. I have him my old iPhone 4 with defender series otterbox case on it. It has all the basic apps he can use( Netflix, flashlight, camera and a bunch of his favorite toddler games). He knows the iPhone better than my dad knows his. He’s Been using the iPad since he was 1

    • Luciana Daré

      My 3 year old has one too, with a “control plan”. It’s like pre-paid, I pay a little for a low-speed, unlimited data plan and a little for calls (15 dollars in total), with free, unlimited calls for same carrier numbers. She basically calls gramps, mom and dad, watch “my little pony” and “lazytown” on youtube and play “where’s my water” and “cooking mama”. She only uses the phone with supervision and is not allowed to carry it outside the house.
      Children must learn to live with technology. It has to be a part of their lives. It doesn’t matter if this experience begins with 13, 19 or 3 years of age; either you keep up with the change, or lag behind.

  • Jerry

    I’m sure Hitler would’ve had similar rules for his kid’s cell phone usage.

  • mocha

    its a good idea. but this is too strict. there is almost no point for the phone if you can only use it like 4 hours a day on weekdays and 15ish hours on weekends

  • jaybeans821

    Seriously its a bit too restrictive, hes barely gonna get to use the phone anyway, if hes as smart as the mom says he is then he will politely hand it back to her and say no thanks mom i really dont need the hassle!! the poor kid is gonna get addicted to it as everyone does and like she said he will mess up and it will turn into heartache for the everyone..

  • Harpreet

    I love the last line.. How many of us have tried getting 3 stars..

  • Jashton

    I have been holding off on getting my teen a cell phone. I feel like it is time to get her one though and this contract helps me make the decision. I will make a contract like this so it fits with our life and hope it helps my teen be safe. I have a great kid too but she is human and so our her peers.
    Thanks for being great parents who know their kids are great but know that sometimes they mess up. All kids need rules and consequences…this contract is perfect!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyrie.eleison.3557 Kyrie Eleison

    I think it’s a good idea; just some points. Some are quite improper!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyrie.eleison.3557 Kyrie Eleison

    I think it’s a good idea; just some points. Some are quite improper!

  • Panty Sniffer

    She is one uptight mother…

  • http://twitter.com/sw_dad Star Wars Dad

    She had some good points, but I think she overreached when she got patronizing (matronizing?) about how many photos/videos he should take or what kind of music he should listen to.

    Still, I give her MAJOR props for caring enough about her son to discuss the awkward truths of cell phone use.

    And those that say a 13 year old doesn’t need a cell phone probably aren’t parents. My kids will have one, because I want them to be able to call me when they get hurt, or are in trouble, or when the movie gets out and they decide they want to grab a bite to eat. I take it most of you haven’t noticed that there are far less functional pay phones in this world than there used to be.

  • Hovabyte

    II think these rules are fantastic.
    All kids in this day and age want the latest gadget. Lets
    not forget first of all that this is an old phone which has been passed down to
    him. Although it has been put on contract (probably for the security of the
    child when needed) Children that age are NOT using a smart phone for making
    calls or even texts thats much. More often it is all the other features that
    are available, Games, Music, Apps, Camera
    and internet. Facebook and twitter.
    I bought my 10 year old daughter a brand new Iphone 5 for
    christmas as she has picked up a lot of my technical savvy and has spent a lot
    of time hijacking my phone or ipad over the last few years. I don’t have the
    literary skills that this boys mother seems to have but I explained to her that
    I pay the bill and I do not expect to have to pay for anything other than the
    standard line rental and the occasional cheap app when asked! Land line and
    mobile calls are free within the contract so she can phone and text friends
    family mum and dad to her hearts content. (within reason and respect).as has
    been explained to her.
    She doesnt take the phone to school and as she stays with
    either her mother or myself we have an easy way of direct contact to her and
    vice versa when she is with the other parent. The GPS tracking also provides a
    good security feature.
    As for looking after the device, I see that as the biggest
    test (one which she has always passed with flying colours on other expensive
    belongings) But if she where to loose or damage the phone we would then have to
    look at the worth of repair, replacing or paying of the contract and leaving
    her with nothing. As she well knows.

    The rules given out by this mother waver between adult sense
    and motherly love, but one thing is certain, those who are knocking her have
    obviously never been responsible for a child or young teenager that they really
    cared about.

  • -X-

    It amazes me the BRILLIANT (sarcasm…got to spell it out because some of you take things far to literal) comments that some immature punks type on here. I come from a generation when (at the time) AOL was the greatest thing ever, because it was so new. Sure, looking back AOL is now purely laughable and dial up? wtf is that right?? Point is, new technology is always amazing at first before it gets replaced with something bigger. Granted that the millions of Facebook and Twitter users today, were either still eggs or getting your diapers changed by your mother when AOL used to be the hottest thing. And even then, I had a life, played sports, had my own hobbies, all while chillin’ out in a chat room during my personal down time.

    Today, you get all of this and WAY more, at the palm of your hand, anywhere, any place, anytime. Spoiled brats.

    By the way, some of you little pricks need to learn to have some consideration. And above all….for the love of god…LEARN TO SPELL. You want to be a smart ass and write smart remarks to the rules this mother made? SPELL AND SPEAK PROPERLY…and then my generation will pay a little bit of attention and respect to yours.

    So how old am I? 31. Had to put it there because I know some of you punks might think I’m an old fart. You probably think I’m also fat. Truth is, I have an awesome job. I fix helicopters, get deployed, fight for your freedom, while earning a nice paycheck. All because I like technological gadgets while still being able to whoop someones butt, and at the same time really hate how some of you compare my duty, to Call of Duty.

    So don’t assume I’m a dumbass, otherwise I will give you a hell of a ride on the short bus….instead, learn that the world is filled with things that social sites will never be able to replace. TALKING and having RESPECT to others…is the only way you will earn yours back.

    And if you agree……then you shouldn’t be offended with anything I just said.

    And if you are offended….do me a favor and grow some hair on your chest. Man up. Learn to live in the real world for once.

    • Unkown 1

      I agree with your comments, but in which world do two wrongs make a right. People making offensive comments isn’t going to be resolved by you offending then. You really can’t generalisel. I am 15 and I am fine with them, they are reasonable.

  • ilkay

    Gee.. What an insult to the kid..esspecially the first line..Screw that Iphone and get one on your own kid!

  • CMB

    The rules seem pretty fair, the actual notion of written contract is fabulous, and maybe its just me but towards the end (Rule 13 and onward) the rules become very arbitrary and even contradictory. The majority of these rules however are good.

  • e

    as a 21 yr old who got his first fone wen he was a senior in high school, who sees kids as young as 8 with there own freaking iphones i just wanna say tht really IS good parenting if there were more parents like this various shootings and half the ‘Jailbait’ pics out there wouldnt b ON the Internet. teenagers these days have no respect i didnt @ tht age but as my uncle would put it im a product of my environment, however the kids today do things i would get smacked (and i really do mean smacked across the face for) for, they cuss and yell back @ there parents and do various stupid things ive seen them do n it really comes down 2 parenting if i even said hell wen i was five my grandma would smack me and thts NOT abuse it was GOOD parenting. sadly today technology is a key part in communication no matter wat u do texting is gonna happen its now a way of life n if i had a working fone id b texting someone while im writiing this long and pointless comment ps im glad theres SOME good parents out there in this jacked up world :)