Caleb, my twelve year old son, wants a smartphone. Last week, I spent an hour talking to him about why he wants a smart phone and also about my concerns. It was a long negotiation about what we both want and how we can both get what we want. At the end of the day, he feels like his peers are getting phones and he would also like one. I am concerned because I have seen smartphones suck the life out of our youth. They can be addictive distractions that keep our young people from learning value skills, showing social courtesy to people, and pursue worthwhile endeavors. I see it in the malls, in restaurants, at church, at school. Disengaged teenagers (and adults) absorbed and distracted by their phone. I am also aware of the vast number of young men and husbands addicted to pornography because of the ease of accessibility that a smart phone offers.
The conclusion of our conversation was that he will get a smart phone. But, we will have a teenager smartphone agreement. We will have some expectations of him, and as long as he is fulfilling those expectations, there is no problem. We will meet after a month and discuss how things are going. Then, we will meet after 3 months and discuss again. The fact is, he will eventually have to learn to use technology responsibly at some point. Our responsibility as parents is to do what we can to give guidance in the transition.
I spent an evening writing down my thoughts and expectations in a list. We got a phone for him, and as we handed it over, we went over each point in the list, discussed, and came to an agreement. We use a service called Accountable2You that monitors every website visited, application used, and time spent. (I am not affiliated with this company other than that I am a customer.) We have an appointment to discuss in a month and we’ll see where we are at.
Here is our list of expectations.
Teenager Smartphone Agreement
- Less than 10 hours of web browsing per week. Exception for school work.
- Less than 20 YouTube videos per week for entertainment. School related or educational subjects are exceptions. Educational subjects should be agreed upon beforehand.
- No games on the phone.
- No games on the laptop. (We have an Xbox, tablet, and a dedicated computer for gaming which happens on Friday nights.)
- Phone should be put away and charging at 8:15pm.
- Productivity apps are OK to install. No need to ask.
- Entertainment apps are not OK. Exceptions should be discussed.
- Phone should never be a distraction at church including boy scouts. It should only be out for scriptures/church content, taking relevant notes, or scheduling.
- Listening to music is OK. Will check content periodically. You should avoid music with cursing or inappropriate content.
- Piano should be practiced at least 5 days per week.
- Should be socially engaged with people. Should always politely greet people and say goodbye. Should never ignore people because you are absorbed in electronics.
- Should stay for dinner and provide engaging conversation. Should never leave the dinner table early to entertain yourself on electronics.
- Grades should be straight As.
- Should treat your brother (and all family members) with kindness, even if you feel they are not being nice or fair.
- Should always be grateful for all you have. Even when things are taken away temporarily.
- Should help out with household chores without complaint or snide remarks. Bonus for great attitude. Double bonus for offering to help.
- Talk to your friends and acquaintances by phone as much as you can. Become a great conversationalist.
- Text with friends as much as you want. But all texts are subject to review. No deleting texts. We want to discuss topics that may be interesting or controversial.
- Do good things on your phone. Everyday if possible. Read the scriptures. Listen to a church talk. Send someone an encouraging message. Record a journal entry.
- All electronics in our home are public devices for everyone. Nothing on any of them are private with the exception of confidential business or church material. Do not try to hide any activity or do anything in secret on any electronic device. All activity on all devices are monitored and reported on.
- The overall goal is for you to continue to grow up as an outstanding man who is continuing to develop valuable skills, gives of your time to worthy endeavors, and is kind and courteous to all around you. If ever there is a concern that develops because of the use of electronic devices, we will discuss openly and try to address those concerns which may involve new guidelines. This is a living document that will change over time.
- We will review these policies at a regular frequency. As you use electronics responsibly, the reviews will become less frequent. We will discuss any areas of concerns and work out a remediation plan that we can both agree to.
- Like anything else, the expectation is not perfection. But we do expect you to try and improve with a good attitude.
As I was telling my sister about this big milestone in our family life, she told me that this is actually a common thing. Her boss just gave a smartphone to their 10 year son and also put together a smartphone agreement. Here is a screenshot of their agreement. I thought it was very good and incorporated some items into our agreement.