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18 Rules To Keep My iPhone? No Thanks.

January 3, 2013

I woke up this morning to many posts about Janell Hoffman, the mom who gave her son an iPhone for Christmas which was accompanied by a list of 18 rules that he has to follow if he going to be allowed to keep “his” phone.  I commend Janell for taking responsibility as a parent and laying out some expectations for her son.

In fact, most of the rules are pretty reasonable and cover a lot of the mistakes that young people make these days with such powerful communication devices.

However, I question some of the rules.  So many of them seem to be about controlling her son and his behaviour I suspect that they are going to work against Janell’s goal of teaching her son to be “a well rounded, healthy young man who can function in the world and coexist with technology.”

Rule 1: Who owns the phone…mom or her son?  She says “you are the proud owner of a new iPhone” and then in Rule 1 she says “it is my phone.”  I hope that not all gifts are given that way.  Her son needs to learn to take care of and take pride in himself and his things.  He won’t be able to do this if everything is on loan from mom.

Rule 4: Turn the phone off at night?  Don’t communicate with your friends by phone if you would not call them?  The way that teens communicate has changed.  It always has and it always will.

Rule 5:  It seems to me that you are trying to teach your son a little about self-regulation.  That’s going to be tough when you are regulating every moment that he is able to use his new phone.  What better place to learn that self-regulation than at school.  There are rules at school, about when a student can and cannot use a cell phone.  If it gets taken away by a teacher…he will have learned his lesson.

Rule 9:  Allow your son to have realistic conversations with his friends.  You have set out a great guideline…but it should be just that, a guideline.

Rule 10: I’m glad that you have created a healthy open environment for your son.  There are things that he is going to search for online.  That is okay.  He will have questions and things that he will want to discuss with his friends.  That is okay.  Thirteen may be too young for pornography…but he should have some privacy with his internet time.

Rule 15: This may be a better suggestion than a rule.  I hope you don’t tell your son what clothes to wear, what movies to watch.  Don’t tell him what music to download.

Rules 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 17:  All wonderful.  So many parents are afraid to say things out loud.  Stating these things lets your son know that you know what happens when young people use these devices.

In the end, I believe that you and your son are better off.  It is better to have received his iPhone with a list of expectation than to not have had any discussion about it at all.  But please…give your son a little more freedom and allow him to make mistakes.  His mistakes and the lessons that follow will be the greatest way for him to learn right from wrong and how to navigate the social world that he (and his phone) are now a part of.

Michael is a social worker and therapist in Toronto.  He specializes in working with teens and their families.

Michael will be presenting a workshop Talk To Me, Not Your iPhone in February 2013. Please contact Michael for more information.

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