Ed.: A debt of gratitude is owed to Janell Burley Hofmann, whose contract for Gregory served as inspiration.
Our oldest turned 14, had been asking for a mobile phone, and following a fair amount of discussion and postponing the inevitable, we graciously relented. Here is the contract we asked him to sign upon relenting. Slightly revised to remove the personal bits.
Happy birthday buddy! You’re now the proud owner of your first mobile phone. You’ve proven you can use your agency to make good decisions, and we’re excited to see how technology will enhance your decision making.
Below are rules and guidelines to be followed by owning a phone. Failure to comply with these rules will result in the termination of ownership.
1) Until you’re 18 and living on your own, all decisions about technology and ownership of devices will ultimately be at the discretion of Mom and Dad. We can take away your privileges at any time. We’ll know your passwords. We may check your device or browsing history from time to time. We’ll learn together and counsel with you on decisions. But what we say is final.
2) It may sound trite, but you really do hold more computing power in your hand than the entire Apollo 11 module that landed on the moon. Use it to do equally amazing things!
3) Create, don’t just consume. Avoid the trap of mindlessly consuming others’ thoughts and productions. Contribute to the global community by acting, not just being acted upon. To paraphrase Amy Petersen Jensen, leave an incredible “digital footprint” in this wonderful world you’re a part of.
4) Always remember that real life is better than any photo, status update, tweet, story, or video you’ll ever find online.
5) Digital technologies “need to be our servants, not our masters” (M. Russell Ballard). Be a master of the technology at your disposal. Not just your phone, but all technology.
6) Unless you become an undercover cop or Bruce Wayne’s protégé, you won’t mask your identity in real life. So don’t do it online either. Use your full name in usernames whenever possible. Exposing your true identity is a great way to keep virtual behavior in check.
7) “Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person” (Janell Burley Hofmann).
8) “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” (Janell Burley Hofmann).
9) Do not use this device to view inappropriate photos or videos of others, and do not share similarly inappropriate photos or videos of yourself with others. If you encounter something inappropriate, delete it, close the tab, or whatever it takes. Just as importantly, make a mental note of the path that led to the encounter to help you avoid it in the future.
10) Related, “only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your message or picture for all time” (David A. Bednar).
11) Always answer calls or respond to messages from Mom and Dad.
12) Be where you are. You needn’t check messages or updates at every stoplight or bathroom break. Don’t divide your attention among those around you by projecting yourself elsewhere through texting or messaging. Give those in your presence the respect they deserve.
13) Learn to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of striking up a conversation with those around you! Try not to use your phone as a means of avoiding others.
14) Keep your phone in your pocket during certain events in which proper etiquette demonstrates self-discipline, such as family meals, at the movies, in class, on a date, and so on.
15) You’ll make mistakes. Mom and Dad will ALWAYS be available to listen and to help you learn from your mistakes. Please give us every opportunity to help you become the best person you can be!
If you’re the parent of newly minted mobile phone owner too, please feel free to use our contract as a starting point for yours.