Like many other parents, Janell Burley Hofmann of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, gave her son an iPhone last Christmas. But her gift to 13-year-old Gregory came with strings attached—a long list of rules that he must follow.
The mother of five covered everything, curfew, porn and all—from “I will always know the password” and “Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’” to “Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.”
The 18-point iPhone contract, which she first posted on her blog (www.janellburleyhofmann.com), was picked up by the Huffington Post and has gone viral since. Janell and Gregory have even appeared on TV.
In an interview with ABC, Gregory said, “My first reaction was why, why did she have to do this?” But he did say he would have followed those rules anyway. On Twitter, Hofmann said, “He says that making the contract was ‘so my Mom.’ We had some laughs, talked seriously and he signed!”
Although she admits that some parts were written in jest, Hofmann does make great points. And now, she says she’s gotten a lot of requests from other parents who want to use her contract as well.
But kids aren’t the only ones who can pick up lessons from Hofmann’s list of rules. Hyperwired adults can learn a thing or two from the contract, too. Hofmann wrote, “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… 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.”
Hofmann has received a lot of love from people who see the importance of her agreement with her son—they continue to share it in their social networks and throw praise her way on Twitter.
But not everyone appreciates Hofmann’s list, with some people accusing her of being a helicopter mom.
One Huffington Post reader wrote, “I would recommend this teen to get a hammer and to destroy the phone in front of his mother. She cannot be changed but he will train himself to deal with insane requests from people in the position of power.”
Another said, “My mom was quite strict, when I was a child, but now I see, that she is an angel comparing to this ‘mother.’ Sorry, but you can’t force your child to trust you, you have to earn it.”
But other people came to her defense. “How can commenters have anything negative to say about teaching your children accountability?”
“There is nothing wrong with showing your children how to be responsible for their own actions and to strive to be better human beings.”
“Can someone please get Greg’s mom a ‘Mother of the Year’ award NOW?!”
In an e-mail, someone accused Hofmann of wanting attention and accolade. “You shared the contract with the world for a giant pat on the back.”
Her reply? “Ummm, no. But I’ll take it! Parenting is hard work! Thanks!”
She said it perfectly in her TV interview, “What I wanted to do and show him was how you can be a responsible user of technology without abusing it, without becoming addicted.”