Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dear overbearing phone mom - No thanks!

You may have read the post from an overbearing mom who was trying to control her kid because she purchased a phone for him. The level of contempt this mom shows for her son is disheartening. Fortunately, this mom’s whole desire to impose lessons upon him falls short if he rejects her gift. Teaching your child that money equals control is a shameful and dangerous lesson.  We can respect children and help them become responsible without such control.  
Here is the letter from this mom followed by what a hypothetical teen (based on real conversations with teens about the issue) who doesn’t accept her gift might say.

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.

Dear Mom,

I appreciate gifts, but this is not a gift. A gift does not come with strings attached so I don’t choose to accept this.  Below are my responses to your strings.
1. It is my phone.  I bought it.  I pay for it.  I am loaning it to you.  Aren’t I the greatest?
  • Thanks mom, but I got my own phone a few weeks back. I’m not sure if you’re the greatest, but I don’t need your strings-attached gifts anymore than you would appreciate dad giving you a gift with such strings.
2.  I will always know the password.
  • Yes you will because I am not taking your phone. I'm saddened by your blatant distrust of me.
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.
  • Please mom.  These are not 21st century manners. I keep my phone on silent or vibrate and am present in my conversations and life.  I can call someone back and focus on what I am doing rather than being slave to a piece of technology.  
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.
  • That’s okay mom.  You can keep my phone.  Texting is not the same as using a landline and your outdated instincts are not applicable. You may want to do some research about teens and optimal sleep patterns. I don’t disconnect from the world at 7:30 p.m.
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.
  • I have developed the ability to converse with people in a variety of ways. Texting, IMing, voice and more.  Being able to text effectively has no impact on my ability to speak effectively. I am developing skills to communicate in many different ways. Additionally, why do you think I must be kept a prisoner of your past? I am quite capable at using my iPhone as a learning tool. Maybe I can teach you some time.
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.
  • Yep. Got that.  Those are the things I did to buy my own phone and bonus! It has a warranty.  
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.
  • Yes. I know this.  Do you doubt my morals?  I am a good person. A phone won’t change that.
8.  Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
  • I don’t.
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.
  • I don’t need to censor myself. Why do you think so little of me? Am I sensing projection?
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.
  • So glad you suggest this mom.  I can see you have carefully considered the best way to address this with me. When can we talk about porn?
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.
  • Wait mom! You are contradicting yourself. In number 3 you told me 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.

    Sounds like you’re going a little schizo but don’t worry. I know proper etiquette.  Let me know if you’d like some help.
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.
  • Ugh mom. Really? Is this your idea of sex ed? I’m sorry, but you’re so lame.  And, let’s lay off the scare tactics.  According to my history class even our president got over a little Lewinsky bam chicka bam bam.
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.
  • Why do you care how many pictures and videos I take?  What makes you think they’ll be stored forever.  Brain research does not support this.  You’re starting to sound a bit paranoid and insane. Mom you’re scaring me.
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.
  • I look at the adults in my world and they don’t do that.  It’s pretty normal to keep your phone on you.  I’m getting worried about your advice mom.
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.
  • OMG mom!  Can you spell C-O-N-T-R-O-L-L-I-N-G. I’ll listen to the music I choose, you listen to your Frankie Valli, thank you very much.
16.  Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
  • I don’t think you know much about what I play.  Talk to me about it and find out what I’m learning.  There are more than the type of games you mention that are good for my brain.
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.
  • I may mess up, but I bought my own phone. You are controlling and I’m not sure you have proved yourself the best person for me to speak to. If that happens I will figure it out and if it is you I pick, I’ll let you know.  

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!

  • I got my own phone that I will use on my terms. I give this phone back to you as a gift that I hope you will enjoy using on the terms that make sense for you.  Mom I'm disappointed that you are trying to control me rather than have conversations with me. I bet we could learn a lot from each other if we actually talked.