This article was published on December 31, 2012

This mom gave her son an 18-point contract with his iPhone. Would you be tempted?

This mom gave her son an 18-point contract with his iPhone. Would you be tempted?
Jamillah Knowles
Story by

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemi Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemimah_knight or drop a line to [email protected]

If you finally buckled and gave your offspring a smartphone or gadget this Christmas, you may by now be wondering if they will ever return to the real world away from that shiny new screen.

Smart mom, Janelle Burley Hofman has published a document that may secure you a full-on teenage eye roll, but it could also help  young ones learn to be responsible. Amusingly it’s not just a few core principles, but an 18 point contract for her 13-year-old son Gregory to adhere to as the lucky recipient of an iPhone.

Check this out –

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.

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 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm.  It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am.  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 & 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.  Merry Christmas!



As a kid who had parents with a similar sense of humour, I feel Gregory’s pain. My parents set up a proxy financial system when I was 12 to help me work out the ways banks lend money and the meaning of interest payments. (Thanks Dad.) That made pocket money a bit trickier to negotiate, but I have to admit their APR was pretty reasonable.

As an adult who survived parents who would do these things, I can also see that it taught me heaps about being responsible and staying safe. Along with being served these funny rules and lists, I was also given a great deal of freedom with the technology I was allowed to use.

I asked Mr Knowles senior about the idea of contracts for kids, and why he thought it was a good idea to teach me some responsibility in a similar way.

“I think as part of the growth and development of kids, a contract is not a bad thing. I can see the negative side being a social problem with his mates. It might be a bit embarrassing.

“The point is not to humiliate your kids, but to make them think. Enforcement is harder though, if you can’t make them stick to the rules then it makes contracts seem irrelevant. It could with some people make them more devious in finding ways around a contract (he didn’t explicitly point out that I might have tried this – I couldn’t possibly comment).

“With your pocket money it was not about getting cross or making you feel bad, it was a learning curve.”

So today was a school day for me too. Naturally as a teen I considered most things presented to me by my parents as some new hell designed to make my very existence more painful. As an ‘adult’ I think it’s more amusing today.

One of the lovely things about the contract above is that Gregory is being treated like an adult as the document offers areas of discussion, good advice and a firm commitment.

Though an 18 point document has comedy value, it’s not as heavy as most of the terms and conditions we ignore every other day. Have you read your new phone’s connection terms? Yeah, thought not.

Image Credit: Steve Snodgrass / Flickr

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.

Also tagged with

Back to top