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Mom goes viral with son’s phone code of conduct

Janell Burley Hofmann honored her 13-year-old son’s “maturity and growth” at Christmas with his first iPhone, but it came with strings attached.

Eighteen strings, to be exact, in a written code of conduct that placed the mommy blogger at the center of the debate over how parents should handle technology in the hands of their teens, especially younger ones just entering the frenetic world of social networks and smartphones.

Thousands of people, including those bemoaning too much helicopter parenting, commented and shared the funny, heartfelt agreement posted at the holiday by the Cape Cod, Mass., mom of five. The interest crashed her website and led her to appear with her eldest, Gregory, on morning TV.  Be sure to check-out the list here and share your thoughts!

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good and 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 and 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 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. 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 and 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.



Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. I like this, especially since there’s some humor in it.

  2. Most of it is great, but policing his music preferences? That’s a little Nazi-ish.

  3. What she was saying is try listening to something out of the norm as well, not to be a sheep, open his eyes to other types of music, not that he could not listen to anything mainstream…

  4. She is good mom who is raising what sounds to be a responsible young man.
    Good for her.

  5. Well done mom 😀

  6. This is a perfect example of a TERRIBLE MOTHER. You either TRUST your child enough to let them have the phone or you don’t. Also, you don’t give your child a PRESENT, then tell them the first sentence later that it’s not theirs to keep, but theirs to be responsible for. This mom just wanted her story to go viral, not teach her son anything about anything….I say again, TERRIBLE MOTHER…..

    • I feel that an opinion is an only an opinion and can be taken however one chooses, but I don’t see the necessity to say or judge someone as “terrible” all because you don’t agree. I feel more parents should take responsibility like this, all too often parents don’t. They assume their child is learning and making the right decisions and trust they make the right choices. But I don’t feel by stating what you expect of your children’s behavior towards others means your are a “terrible” mother, I feel quite the opposite, this is taking responsibility as a parent. All too many times these topics and subjects don’t get discussed or addressed. I feel your words were very harsh and unnecessary. If you have a teen boy then state your dispute and back up to why this is terrible, but until then maybe other words or explanations should have been used.

    • I feel bad for your kids Genesis. You lack some intelligence. This was well done. Trust is like credit, you have to earn it and keep it in good standing to get more.

  7. It’s a good idea in general but if I were him, I would ask for a “re-visit” of the rules once a year because teens do need a certain amount of space as they get older…:) Also, if he followed all of the other rules, I don’t think I would insist on knowing his password. Just my thoughts 🙂

  8. I like the idea of this code of conduct, and might adapt it when I become a parent in the future. That said, I think that a few simple straight forward rules might have been more effective than this exhaustive list. In particular, numbers 13-16 seem unnecessary. Don’t take too many pictures or videos, son? Download music that is an alternative to mainstream popular appetites? PLAY BRAIN GAMES? Seriously, for such a level headed woman, these seem like ridiculous, petty points. I understand her intention, but why not let her responsible son have some decision making ability about what he wants to immortalize on his camera roll, the contents of his playlist and his method of killing time. Decision making and choice are part of adolescent identity formation.

  9. my 13 year old son is, on a daily basis, asking for a cell phone. (even just a simple “cheap” phone) but i will not give him one because he owns an ipod, xbox etc. and those sickening gadgets are “taking” him away from us and everyday life. its a constant battle with him just to tell him to leave his ipod at home when we are on a trip. i miss my son when he would talk in the car nonstop (he was such a “question box”) now hes moody and his head is constantly looking down at his ipod or his dads cell phone. (because i will not allow him to use mine, only in an emergency) but thats just my opinion.

  10. This lady ( and dad) did an awesome thing for their son. The contract idea is just excellent and I am tucking the idea away for future use in our home. As for her requests about his music, I really don’t think it’s controlling for a parent to ensure their child avoids a myopic view of the world. It’s their job.

  11. How did this letter become viral in the first place? Who posted it? The parents???? Hypocritical if that’s the case. But I do agree that a 13 year old should have rules associated with a phone/internet/gaming device whatever. So many bad things happen via these sources. I just don’t think the whole world needed to know about it.

  12. We have a digital contract for both of our kids. I think the important take away is that some of this would be good for your own child, some of it not. Only you know your own kiddo and parenting style. Our contract covers all online expectations, not just phone use, and models our overall values. Some of these points are on it, but some not. Some of them are obvious expectations, and ones I know we will never worry about. Others, I think that its a good idea to not only tell them the expectations but to have it in writing. I do agree with the commenter above me though and was surprised when I first saw it online after Christmas and wonder if she asked him before what he thought about her posting it. I haven’t followed the story since so I don’t know the answer.

  13. It says at the beginning of the article that she is a blogger, so I am assuming that is how it went viral. I think what she did is an excellent idea. So many kids these days are so spoiled and have such a huge sense of entitlement, that they aren’t taught the basic “rules” of how to be responsible and appreciate what they have. She is basically telling him that this is a privelage, and letting him know that it shouldn’t take over his life or cause him to make wrong decisions is her job as a parent.

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