Mom Gives Son iPhone…. With An 18-Rule Contract

Mom Contract
Mom Contract
Photo Credit: MSN

Facebook and Twitter pages are buzzing right now with everyone’s views on Janell Burley Hoffman’s decision to give her 13 year old son an iPhone for Christmas with an 18 clause contract. Some people are high-fiving her rules, while others are saying she is being too controlling and should not have gotten him the phone in the first place if she didn’t trust him.

You may be asking what the big deal is. We did too until we read the whole thing. Here it is-

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good and 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 and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?

2. I will always know the password.

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.

4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. 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.

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.

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.

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.

8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

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 and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

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.


Whew! That was a lot to read!

We are interested in your thoughts- do you think this is the new way to go with big ticket gift items? Should everything come with a “Mom Contract?” Or was this too much? Is there a line between gift giving and controlling a gift? Leave a comment below!



  1. In terms of content, I think there is some good advice here, notably numbers 13-17. I can see where she’s coming from with the sentiment of not being utterly glued to your smartphone to the point of becoming a drooling drone, closing yourself off from the world (unless you’re recording it through Instagram) loosing all manner of social skills and independent thought etc etc.

    As someone who grew up in the last generation who communicated through passing notes, (not texting/IMing each other) in class, and who took photos on special occasions with a disposable camera, (which you later ‘developed’ into prints) I am bemused when I am at gigs/club nights these days and all the yoof are FILMING THE WHOLE THING! Can they really enjoy the immediacy of the event this way? Which is why I agree with the crazy mum’s rule to ‘live your experiences’. I also like that she sees the positive aspects of the phone, especially the point she makes about music (15), and the point about brain games (16). Both appreciate the potential for the phone to enrich him in some way, which is refreshing when there’s a lot of older generation types whining about smartphones making kids antisocial and stupid (or getting in your way at gigs, filming everything!) So, good on the crazy old mum for trying to encourage the kid to use his smartphone creatively.

    But does this need a CONTRACT? Couldn’t all of that have been done with a good old fashioned two way discussion? This discussion, if the kid has half a brain, will most probably make him realize that it IS indeed antisocial to have your phone on in the cinema(if he doesn’t, no contract is going to change that kind of social ineptitude). I think the contract context spoils the good intentions, with its irritatingly patronizing tone.

    As for all the policing of what he can send or look up etc on the phone; I get where she may be coming from, but teenagers need their privacy, and there is nothing wrong or negligent about giving them some of that. This is why she is ‘Crazy (if caring) Mum’. Her rules show good intentions, but it’s far too control freaky and sadly, it might not produce the mature, thoughtful and independent young man she is hoping for, who plays word games and has good manners. The control-freakery is simply gonna make him snap one day, and he will find it ‘exciting and enticing’ (instead of kinda juvenile and lame) to be that little bit rebellious and send a picture of his butt to all his friends and their mothers.

    It’ll be his one way ticket to number 18, but he will feel that it was strangely worth it.


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