Mom Holiday Gifts iPhone To Her 13-Year-Old With Lengthy Contract That Demands Looking Out Windows

shutterstock_84149650Of all the parenting debates to have, technology and children is albeit one of the most privileged ones. Gifting iPhones, iPads, and other fancy gadgets to the 13 and under set carries a whole lot of socioeconomic statements. But for the First World Problems side of the world, handing over a 24/7 glowing screen with Internet access and Twittersphere and texting does evoke a slew of legitimate parenting concerns. Such as, will my daughter or son ever look out the window ever again? Will my teenager fall down an Internet sexting abyss? Which is why one mother took to an 18-point contract when handing the coveted device over to her 13-year-old.

Mother of five, Janelle Burley Hofman, published the contract in which she lays down the law to her new iPhone-owner of a son. Behold some Apple product parenting:

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.

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  • Justme

    I think this is a great list – the first two points really lay down the basic rules but I like how she made points about the phone not being an all-consuming toy.

    Based on the interviews that I’ve seen with the mother and son, they have a great relationship which is probably because of firm and appropriate boundaries combined with lots of love and grace. I assume that only a few of these points are hard and fast rules (the payment if it breaks, the porn, the phone curfew) while the others are simply guidelines so that the child can become a well-rounded adult. The same rules could be applied to the computer or a video game system.

    From other sites I’ve seen this posted on, people are reaming this mother for being “controlling” of her child – especially about his music. Do we really think she’s going to search his iPod and take it away if he ONLY has LMFAO on it? No. Probably not. But she is encouraging him to think outside the teenage box at different eras and genres of music.

    And she DOES leave room for negotiation – right there in the bottom. The kid is 13 and as he gets older and shows maturity and growth, I would assume the curfew could be extended.

    • Tinyfaeri

      I concur. :) I read it as more a few hard-set rules, and the rest as general gidelines for life with a smartphone and good excuses to take the phone for a while if he shows poor judgement about using it. I know a few adults who could use the reminder to not let your smartphone interfere with real human interaction and actual living, never mind teens. I love her emphasis on not letting the phone own him, and to wonder before googling. And the stupidity of sexting and its potential lasting impact on one’s life cannot be stressed strongly enough or often enough to any teen. Nor can the permanence of things posted on the internet or the power that words have to hurt (even strangers).

    • Justme

      I teach middle school and I definitely see an uptake in the amount of drama since the smartphone became popular. Practically every time I try to get to the bottom of the drama among my athletes somewhere in the course of conversation I hear…

      “Last night I was texting….”

      “She said on Facebook….”

      Or something very, very similar. The amount of interaction teens have with each other through texting is absolutely mindboggling. And from my experience, the amount of unlimited access a child has to technology is a direct reflection of a general lack of boundaries in the home….and the fewer the boundaries the more trouble a child tends to get into because of poor decisions.

      **Yes, there are ALWAYS exceptions to this statement BUT this has been my experience through several years of teaching and coaching.**

      I found the list authoritative: “I love you, here’s a cool present but with privilege comes responsibility…so I’ve got a few guidelines. Be nice to people, be respectful of those around you, make healthy decisions both in person and in the digital world. I also know that you’ll probably mess up a couple of times but don’t worry, I will still love you and we’ll work through that issue when the time comes.”

      How can you get much better than that?

  • Paul White

    Mostly I like the list but how does having it off in public and always answering when they call go together? It seems like those would conflict…

    • Justme

      I kind of took it as more general than specific. The idea that when you’re at dinner with someone, take the phone off the table and pay attention to who you with. Or if you’re at the movies, don’t be that annoying person trying to text and FB. But I would also assume that the parent would KNOW that the child is at a movie and therefore not call until the movie was over. I also took it as a “don’t knowingly hit ignore when mom or dad call” and not as a “if you don’t answer EVERY SINGLE FREAKING TIME WE CALL YOU, YOU WILL BE GROUNDED FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE AND WILL NEVER OWN A PHONE AGAIN.” Because at 29…….sometimes I knowingly hit “ignore” when my mother calls. :)

  • La Bamba

    I think this is a fun list composed by a (most likely) very good, realistic, and caring mom; however, something is irking me, and it has nothing to do with her and the iPhone. It’s the title! Using “gift” as a verb makes me twitch.

  • Renee J

    I hope she lets up on #3. One thing I learned as an adult is that the phone ringing is not a summons. It’s fine to screen your calls. And I hope when he’s driving, they don’t expect him to answer the phone while behind the wheel.

    • Justme

      I think she meant it more as “don’t be a little punk and hit ignore when I call you.” And she left room for adjustments to the contract at the bottom…ie – when he begins driving.

    • Véronique Houde

      I think that when you’re 13, it’s to be expected not to ignore your parent’s calls, especially when you’re out. If a parent were to expect that of a 20 year old, that’s a whole other story ;)

  • Katie

    Have to be honest, I think if it has to come with a list of mostly common-sense type stuff, then that may be a sign that the kid isn’t ready for an iphone.

    I honestly think when she was getting down to the music one, she was running out of ideas and just wanted it to be more lengthy, the stuff becomes more unrelated to the phone itself as it goes on.

    • Tinyfaeri

      He’s 13. I know adults who could use some of the reminders in that list. :)

  • meteor_echo

    I think that at this point, I’d have returned the phone to her and started babysitting/lawn mowing to save up for my own. I don’t like “presents” that are merely loaned out to me, I don’t like to be expected to answer every single call, and I most definitely would not want to not be able to take it to school (hello, what if an emergency happens?). I once had to sit through an epileptic fit of a classmate, and I had to be the one to call the hospital (our school doctor was a moron and all the kids were afraid of her). Another time, my head got smashed on the table and I had to get stitches. If not for a phone, I’d have no way to call my parents to take me back home after that.

    So no, sorry, I understand that she’s trying to mean the best for her kid and that some of the rules on the list are fine, but the “it’s my phone and I’m loaning it out to you” thing ruins it.

    • Véronique Houde

      dude, have you not noticed that a school has a gazillion phones? I’m so tired of people using the excuse of “in case of emergencies”… what did we do when we were kids? We called from internal phones, we found a public phone, we made due, no? Our parents had the phone numbers of where we were, and they called there if they needed to contact us. This kid is 13. When you’re 13, you are given gifts that come with rules. That’s a fact, and it’s a healthy fact. I only can wish to be this cool when my daughter is 13!

    • meteor_echo

      It kind of depends upon where you live. United States or Canada? Of course, phones errywhere. Ukraine (where I live)? Not so much. And, when I was 13, I actually did return gifts that came with rules, and then saved up for my own, because I kind of think that a gift is something that other people can’t blackmail you with, or set their own rules about. It’s just something that you get without having to return favors back.

    • Véronique Houde

      um… the chances of getting an iphone in ukraine are kinda slim when you’re a young teen for most people. and culturally, ukrainian parents are a lot more strict with their teens, so this might be considered soft discipline (I had two ukrainian ex-boyfriends). I don’t understand why you think this is considered blackmail. It’s a series of set conditions for use of a small computer. As a mental health worker, i give many workshops to teens about how to use this type of technology, and for a mom to actively get involve and set these conditions is awesome – she does it in a really kind and loving way, and a lot of the rules are meant to encourage him to broaden his horizons, be a polite young man, and to be safe. If more parents did the same, there would be MUCH LESS cyberbullying, sexting, and child porn online. There is nothing wrong with making sure your teen uses his gift responsibly, and letting him know what will happen if he doesn’t.

    • meteor_echo

      You’d be surprised if you knew how many parents outright pamper their children here. I have seen 10-year-olds with smartphones, and it actually IS rather easy to buy at least an off-brand smartphone if you take up a part-time job. Also, no, parents are not as strict in upbringing here as you think – thus the slew of horrible little troglodytes who grate on everybody’s nerves.

      I’m not against some of the conditions on the list, but some are just… meh.

  • Vibrantgreen

    We gifted our teenagers (14 & 17) with iPhones for Christmas with a contract. It was. Not nearly as “cheeky” as this one and it had more reasonable expectations regarding “non-use” times, but our two still balked when they read it. After a few hours they both signed…we know our kids will make some mistakes, but overall they’re such good kids that it felt really good to gift them the phone of their dreams with the reality of the contract rather than not take the chance they could learn to manage themselves and enjoy the privilege.

  • Jessie

    I love almost every rule in this list, except for not being allowed to have it at school. I know, the “what if there’s an emergency” excuse is overplayed, but honestly it’s a legitimate one. My mother bought me a cell phone when I was 15, and she EXPECTED me to take it to school because I went to school in a rough area where we had at least three violence-related lockdowns a year, and she could see emergency vehicles pull into my school’s lot from where she worked her mail delivery route and was always worried that she couldn’t contact me to find out what was happening and if I was safe.
    Now, that isn’t to say that there were not rules about having it at school. It was to be silenced throughout the entire day (unless there was a emergency), no texting or otherwise fiddling with it in class unless a teacher expressly allowed free time to do so (we had a few awesome ones who did), etc. I would feel better about this particular mother’s list if she had maybe made some rules about having it at school rather than just forbidding it entirely.

  • Daisy

    This is awesome. (I don’t agree with all the rules, but I don’t have to.) The general idea of the whole thing is just fantastic, and I wish every kid had parents like this. Thanks for my warm fuzzies for the day :)

  • mm

    I found it quite ironic that she has a list of rules for her son yet no qualms about putting him on the news, etc. She has a blog, she published this on her blog, she writes for other blogs. This was for publicity. What’s worse, pimping your kid for website hits and putting him in the public eye, or texting at dinner? Just sayin’……