Thursday, 3 January 2013

Why I Don't Like The "iPhone Contract" for Kids...

Over the past day, there has been a Huffington Post article about a Mom who gave her teenage son a cell phone for Christmas, along with a very wordy 18 point contract, and it has been all over the inter wares. I have seen it posted multiple times on social network sites.

If you haven't seen it already, you can read the article here.

Maybe the contract was supposed to be light-hearted and fun? I don't know. Giving your child a cell phone is certainly not a light-hearted decision. It's a very serious parenting decision. And every family must make those decisions for themselves.

Let me tell you this-I am the parent of a teenager and a tween. They both got cell phones around age 12. They, too, were given phones as Christmas gifts. And with both children,  we have talked  and still talk about how the cell phones are to be used. We  have discussed cell phone use, respect and behavior. We talk and have talked about it. Numerous times. Our daughter is 16 now and has had a phone for 4 years. Our son just got his iPhone for Christmas.

So back to the article in Huff Post...

I read the iPhone contract. I re-read the contract. All 18 points of it.

 I didn't like it.

 I didn't think it was awesome.

Let me tell you why:

I would never 'give' my children a contract with a gift. For one thing, a gift is a gift. It shouldn't be saddled with terms and conditions. If you have to give a gift with terms & conditions, then maybe it shouldn't be a should just be a purchase. You wouldn't do that to an adult, so why would you do it to a child?

We don't parent with contracts in this house. We parent with love and respect, supervision and an on-going dialogue about the things that matter. And when it comes to 'touchy' subjects like cell phones, social media and curfews....we have meaningful discussions about what the expectations regarding behaviour are. We have numerous meaningful discussions...all the time. And when we have to,  we make a rule or change a rule.

Contracts are a business tool...that is their purpose and that is what they were designed for. They are full of legal-ease and wordy phrases. Contracts have their place in the business world. I don't understand the necessity of using a business tool with children .I am not sure you are giving your child respect when you place a contract on them. Would you want your husband/wife to place a contract on you? Not me. No thank you. And what about when things come up that you didn't think of, and you have to re-evaluate? I would not want to be saddled with having to re-write or add clauses and sub-sections to a contract for my children. I mean really. Why don't just good old-fashioned words and rules work? {And I am not talking about the child who has behavioral issues and has broken the rules numerous times and might then need a 'contract' that has been recommended by a mental health professional as part of their treatment. I am talking about normal, get-into-trouble-once in a while children.}

 I had both my kids read the contract. Then we had a discussion about the 'contract'. We agreed that we have many of the same rules and expectations as specified in the contract...but we don't deliver the information as a 'contract'. We deliver it in everyday parenting and family discussions and reminders and family values. My son just got his phone and it's all new to him. I check  and monitor his phone every day.  If  I should see something that concerns me, then I will be sure to discuss it with him...right then and there! I don't need to whip out a contract and refer to it. I will use my brain!  And I will ask my children to use their brain and think about their choices.

Also, why not make cell phone rules simple? Simple and easy to understand. You can tell your kids the same information as the 'contract' in about 2 minutes and 5 simple rules. And as parents, if you have laid the groundwork, most of these things are things they would already know.

1. Be kind to people on your phone just like you would in person. Manners matter.

2.  No naked pictures. Ever.

3. Ask Mom & Dad anything. Reply to Mom & Dad immediately.

4. Leave your GPS location finder on.

5. You break~then you buy. Or go without.

For the rest of the issues, you supervise your child....exactly like you would normally...on a daily basis. You don't need a wordy 18 points to describe this. They don't respond to a text from take the phone away...simple. They have brains. They catch on quickly! {My daughter has had her phone taken away before and can have it taken away again at any point. Both children know this!} Having a cell phone is a privilege and not a right! 

Ty has 262 pictures on his cell phone already. And honestly, I LOVE every single one of them.. They make me burst out laughing. Why? Because he is having fun and each picture shows his fun-loving personality and his sense of humour. Here is one picture I found. Silly boy. As for taking too many pictures and videos as part of the contract, well, I am a scrapbooker and have been for years. Just try to tell a scrapbooker that one can  take too many pictures....just try it! 

Also, our children have cell phones as a matter of safety. We live in a big city of a million people. When my daughter was in Grade 7, she was more than 30 minutes late getting home from school one day. I drove to the bus stop. I drove around  our neighbourhood. I couldn't find her. I called my husband was the worst feeling in the world. I came home and called the school...only to find out that she was still on the school bus...that was broken down on the side of the road. The school was sending another bus to retrieve the children and deliver them home. It was shortly after that when Christmas came that we gave her a cell phone. If she had had a cell phone, she could have texted or phoned me to let me know that the bus was broken down. So yes, our children will be taking their cell phones to school every day.

I have had to deal with some very serious issues regarding cell phone use.....but not with my own children....other people's children. My daughter had a very humiliating experience happen to her in the cafeteria at school. After much discussion,  and we decided that it was an issue that the school needed to be made aware of, I went to have meetings at school with officials. While we were looking at the incident on the school''s security cameras, lo and behold, there we see a teenage boy recording the whole incident on his cell phone. We were shocked. Thankfully, the video didn't go anywhere, but still.....what is wrong with people? {And that boy who filmed....he doesn't need a contract...he needs education, parenting and a good swift kick in the my opinion!} There are so many things wrong with what happened at school....the invasion of privacy, the being filmed without prior knowledge., etc. It could happen to any one of us...and it does. We see cell phones being used every day to record good things and not so good things...and lots of those videos end up on Youtube, or the local news. It is an issue that we all have to talk about with our children....all the time! I tell my kids to do good things with their cell phones...capture memories and laughter. Don't hurt people.

 I question the value of having a contract with children for cell phones, when many, many adults don't model the things they preach. Parents should absolutely be modeling the desired behaviors regarding cell phone use, yet I see numerous parents texting while driving, texting and ignoring their kids, talking about private things in public places on cell phones, using their phone excessively, texting while out with their families in restaurants, texting and browsing at movies.  etc. I think that we, as a society, have a problem with technology and over-use and over-sharing. Maybe we should use contracts, but maybe we should have parents sign them as well?  Maybe they should be 'family contracts' ? What's that old saying...what is good for the goose is good for the gander? Maybe parents should be promptly turning in their cell phones at 7:30 pm and spending time with their families...."seeing the world happening around them".

I do agree, philosophically, with lots of what was said in the iPhone contract. But maybe it could have been called, "Mom's Little Book of Life Lessons" or "How I Want You to Grow Up". That would seem more appropriate than calling it a cell phone contract.

And that, my friends, are my thoughts on this one.

How about you?
Will you be using a contact with your children?
What are the cell phone rules in your house?
Do tell! Inquiring minds want to know!

This post has been linked to:
I Heart Naptime, It's Overflowing, Under The Table & Dreaming,

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