In 2012, I sat down and wrote a list of rules for my teenage son, Gregory, to follow after receiving an iPhone for Christmas. He read it, laughed at how on point it was and agreed to it. The viral, global response and professional opportunities spawned from that piece simply reflect life's wild ride. I'm thrilled to be a part of the cultural conversation on raising Generation Tech. Here are 12 ways the contract has impacted our lives.
1. Yes, the contract works. The rules outlined in those 18 points are a reflection of our family. They apply to the screen and they apply away from the screen. That consistency in our philosophies has helped us navigate the learning curve of parenting portable technology.
2. Because we've had contract success doesn't mean it's always easy. It's one thing to write the rules, it's another to keep them alive and kickin'. Parenting requires a ferocious kind of faith, but also a willingness to work.
3. Here's a little secret: giving my 13-year-old an iPhone scared the hell out of me. What if I lose him to it? What if he makes terrible choices? What if I regret it? What if he can't live without it? But the contract, it has helped me breath a little. Parenting the technology doesn't look any different from how I parent everything else.
4. The contract is fluid. It adapts with the seasons (Literally! During the summer, G could use it much later than during the school year) and the needs of our family.
5. He has messed up. I have taken away his phone. We have started again. We're still in this together. We are always learning.
6. Get this: He thinks I'm right! National headlines and stories closer to home involving teens and tech use have emotionally impacted us. Together, we have been paying attention to choices, consequences and the reality of their relationship. I do not believe that G will never make mistakes. But if he does, it will not be because he didn't know better.
7. G's my teacher. If I don't know the latest app or social networking site, I go right to the source and say, "Show me." I learn about what he's using and how he's using it. Then I use it too. I don't feel so overwhelmed, but empowered. And G knows that our family understands technology, so it's not a secret or underground, but front and center.
8. It's a family affair. We have all become mindful tech users. We have days, times, outings that are "No Phone Zones" and we all try to "Keep our eyes up. See the world happening around us." Our tech truth doesn't just apply to the iPhone, the iPad, the xBox, but to life. For real!
9. I truly believe our gift enhanced Greg's life. We have become strong believers that life can be #techpositive. His unlimited access to music and podcasts of his interest, the ease of his social reach with peers and the strengthened connections to extended family are just a few of the ways we celebrate the technology.
10. The hardest part for me? The iPhone represented change. The iPhone was one of many splits in our parent/child relationship. I hoped that the foundation I built combined with my continued guidance were enough to give him tech success. The passwords we noted, time limits we set and expectations we announced were firm. But ultimately, that device was his world -- what he said and shared and searched didn't filter through me, but were his choice. My boy is stronger for it and so am I.
11. What I learned? The technology is a beautiful, exciting piece of our world. So let it be fun. Let it be a tool. Let it be social and creative and expansive. Welcome it, into your home, deliberately. And know that it cannot replace holding a hand or a good book, coffee with a friend or a walk in the woods, but it can coexist. If our children know the power and joy of both the modern and ancient, then a full life is unlocked. That is the only thing I now know for sure.
12. Bonus: My daughter got a Kindle for Christmas and is begging me to write her a contract. Well, I didn't see that one coming! But I'll take it!
Follow Janell Burley Hofmann on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@JanellBH