My husband and I like to think of ourselves as progressive yet somewhat strict parents. While we believe in giving our two sons the space to explore the world around them on their own, house rules and our expectations for general behavior are explicitly discussed and enforced. Manners are a very big deal in our house.
So when our oldest came to us requesting a smartphone (at age 11), we initially balked. Instead, he received a relatively inexpensive feature phone on a prepaid plan. We were smugly congratulating ourselves for our awesome parenting skills and secretly looking down at others who gave into their child’s request for a smartphone so easily when we began to notice that our son was constantly losing his phone, not turning it on and/or letting the battery run down to nothing. He had no interest in the device and, in turn, often times we had no way to reach him.
Fast forward 6 months: Our oldest is now in possession of an iPhone 4S. It’s a hand-me-down phone (I say quickly before the public can judge too harshly) and the rate plan is the smallest available. While we’re not thrilled with the idea of our child having a high-end electronic device in his pocket, we feel that this phone (and all the bravado that comes with it in preteen land) will encourage him to keep his phone charged and in good condition so we are able to contact him when needed.
In order to make the transition from feature phone to smartphone as painless as possible, we created a Device Contract. The goal of this contract was to clearly explain the responsibility that comes with having your own phone, the dangers that exist if the phone is used inappropriately and the consequences that will be enforced if the phone isn’t taken care of responsibly. We wanted to outline the rules my husband and I set for using such a powerful piece of technology and the expectations we have for the way our son will use his device.
For our family, this agreement (and the conversations that accompanied it) was the most effective way to convey all that information in a way our 11 year old could understand it. So far, we are happy to report we have seen great success.
You are more than welcome to copy our contract for your own use. I also encourage you to research other options as no one contract is better than another.