The usual Christmas contract between grown-ups and children is that a present is given, and a thank you letter is received (well, one can hope). One mother in Massachusetts took things a little further when she gift-wrapped an iPhone for her 13-year-old son. With it she enclosed an 18-point contract that he was required to sign before he got to keep the gadget.
At this point, if Gregory were a little older, he might have said “screw you, mom” and stropped off but, crucially, most just-teens still depend on their parents for food, lifts, top-ups. And an iPhone is a big-ticket item, so she's only protecting her investment when she asks him to look after it. The number of times in the last week that I have almost stepped on my daughter's new Kindle as she leaves it On The Floor to charge is teeth-grindingly high.
But what Mrs Burley Hofmann is really pushing is improved social behaviour in the contract, which is now racing through cyberspace.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wise words. And an admirable intention (one might wonder how this story became public until one realises that mom has a blog). But in my experience, teenagers can only a) hear, and b) follow, one instruction at a time. Maybe Gregory is different?
But it is when she tells him to look up, to have memories, not photos, and to leave the phone at home sometimes that I lose patience. No kid will ever sign off on that.