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A Smart Phone Gift And A Teachable Moment

Did you buy a smart phone or tablet as a Christmas gift for your child or grandchild? Smart phones are very popular gift items. A recent survey found that about 37% of shoppers planned to buy smart phones as gifts for the holidays.

Last week, an 11-year-old student in my tai chi class mentioned that his mother had purchased an iPhone 5 for him as a Christmas present. After hearing this comment, I began to wonder what I would teach an 11-year-old to prepare him/her to use a smart phone wisely to protect their self online... without over-sharing nor running up a huge monthly bill.

I didn't have to search far nor long. Blogger Janell Burley Hofmann developed a contract when she gave her 13-year-old a new iPhone as a Christmas gift. Hofmann's contract clearly outlines both her terms of the gift and her expectations of her teenager. This makes excellent sense. Some notable items from Hofmann's contract:

"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."

Some of the items on the list are obvious:

"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...
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."

I like that Hofmann has included a no-sexting clause, since many teens now use Snapchat (instead of thinking that those risky photos disappear, but they don't:

"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."

Readers of the I've Been Mugged blog may remember smart phone insurance issues encountered by some consumers. So, it makes sense to clarify what happens if/when the smart phone breaks:

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."

Items I would add to the any smart phoone or tablet contract for a teenager:

19. You will receive spam via email, text messages, and at social networking websites. Learn how to recognize spam.

20. To avoid using up all of your monthly calling minutes, you will likely be tempted to use the WiFi setting on your smart phone instead. This means you will also be tempted to use public WiFi hotspots, which could make your smart phone vulnerable to malware and computer viruses. Don't. You can use our password-protected home WiFi. If you want to use public WiFi hotspots, you will ask your parents first for a VPN software recommendation.

21. You will install an anti-virus app to protect your smart phone just like this software protects your laptop computer. You will learn how to use that anti-virus software and keep it up-to date.

22. Learn how to read the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions Policy at websites. If you don't understand or don't like the policy at a website, don't use that website and don't register at that website, no matter how popular you think it is.

23. Read the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions Policy before installing a mobile app. If an app doesn't have a policy, don't install nor use that app. If you don't understand or don't like an app's policy, don't install that app on your smart phone and don't use it.

24. Know the full price of an item or service, including any fees, before making an online purchase with your smart phone. If you are unsure what the price is, don't buy it. If the price is more than $10, get the approval of me or your father, first. If the price is less than $10, you will pay for it out of your weekly allowance.

What do you think of Hofmann's smart phone contract for her teen? What items would you add?


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