I am not a Mom. I like to start these posts off so that people that are going to discount my opinions based on whether or not I’m currently raising children can stop reading now. No need for them to waste their time.
Lately, there have been “Cell Phone Contracts” and now, “Family Technology Contracts” floating around the web. It started with this fabulous Huff Post article here. I read that when it first came out, and though “Huh. Not how I would have phrased it, but makes sense.” Also, the article, and the contract, is quite witty. Good life skill to have if you’re a parent I think. Then I read another blog post here about a similar contract. The blog author had tweaked it work for her family, but I found that I have some of the same problems with it that I had with the original one. Below, my thoughts on both.
” It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that these parents also buy their kids clothes, and that they wouldn’t classify those as “theirs”. The phone is a gift sure, but frankly, calling a gift “yours” just doesn’t sit right with me. I’m not sure I have a more elegant way of saying why, but I don’t like it. I would probably say something like:
“I bought you this phone as a gift. I know, I know, I rock. But now, you’ve got to help pay for it. It’s not my phone, it’s yours. However, as in all areas of your life, I retain an obsessive interest and will from time to time look at the photos or google something if it’s out. And remember: Dad knows a lot of hackers.”
“I will always know the password/if you choose to put a password on your device I will always know”
Frankly, I can barely remember my own phone password. I can not begin to keep up with multiple ones. And I think stating “If I ask the password tell me” shouldn’t have to be said. If you’re not hiding anything, you don’t care if someone’s looking at your phone. If they don’t tell me their password when I ask, frankly, we’ve got bigger problems. (Again, not a parent, but I was a teenager once and if I’d had a phone and my Mom asked for the password, I would have said “Why?” and she would have said why, I would have said ok, and that would be that. I might have added: Please don’t look at my text messages.)
“Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.
Ok, frankly? This is bad phone manners. I don’t want my kid answering the phone in the middle of class or when they’re in an after school activity or if they’re talking to friends or if they’re, you know, engaging with the world around them. You don’t know what your kid is doing at all hours of the day and you might call at a really really bad moment. I think a better thing to say would be.
“Always return a phone call from Mom or Dad with a phone call or a text within 10 minutes. If not, there had better be a fire, death, or something else grisly going on. And an emotional emergency doesn’t count. We’re talking fire, dismemberment or someone in immediate danger of harming themselves or others.”
“At this point in the game, we reserve the right to be the only ones to give you license to any new apps. Please let us know if you want something new and why. We love to discuss these things with you, and we mostly trust your judgment”
This to me, is micro parenting. If you trust your kid enough to have a phone (or an Ipod) you trust them enough to know what is ok to download and not ok to download. Period. If strange charges start showing up on your phone bill, then you start asking questions, docking allowances and dolling out punishments. But until then, trust that you’ve raised them well and that they are going to (mostly) make good choices.
Most of the rest of these contracts (and you should read them, they’re mostly great) I agree with. And while I think the idea of a contract is a bit…strange…I do understand the need for them. I’m glued to my phone and tablet far more then I should be. My husband I just had a discussion about being more mentally present with each other. But I’m still not sure I’d use one. Because(and again, I’m not a parent yet) I would hope that my kids would know most of these things. That they would have the good common sense to not download something inappropriate. To know that what you put on the internet is there for life and can wreck your life. That calling someone at 2 a.m. in the morning (or texting) is not.ok. And the “you break it, you pay to fix it” rule should apply to all things. I guess my thought is “Why do parents feel these are necessary?” To my mind, I’m not going to give a kid a phone who doesn’t understand these principles. Or if they HAD to have a phone (and frankly, I’m not sure I buy that argument) it would be an old clunker with a set amount of pre-paid minutes that they’d be embarrassed to use in public.
And yes, kids screw up. But I don’t believe that micromangaing them is the key to them not screwing up. Believe that you’ve raised good and smart kids until you’re proven wrong. In my experience, kids value trust from their parents. And when they do something that screws up that trust, they’ve lost something valuable. And they know that, and they want to earn it back. Maybe I’m giving kids too much credit. But frankly, I don’t think parents are giving them enough.