DRMONTYThis past Christmas my twin 6th grader step-grand-daughters got new i-phones. They weren’t the first among their friends to be entrusted with such a precarious resource. So they were especially excited, given the waiting involved, to have joined their peers in further engaging the ubiquitous computerized culture of these days.

The girls’ mom and dad are hardly “helicopter parents.”  They enjoy their children with a fair and firm hand, providing sufficient family structure, emotional warmth, clear parental boundaries and notable generosity.

I wasn’t, however, expecting a “code of ethics” to be included along with the new i-phones, reminding the girls that responsibility is meant always to be partner with privilege. Their dad said that he got the “contract” from a friend, another father, who got it from a local intermediate school guidance counselor. The girls were required to read and sign the “contract.”

I was so impressed with this particular parental intervention, I couldn’t imagine it not being something thoughtful and helpful to share with other parents of children relative to the age of my step-grand-daughters. Given that children’s access to the morally ambiguous internet in our time is surely a concern to any responsible parent or other supportive, engaged adult.

Cell Phone Agreement

I, ____________________, acknowledge the following:

First, modern technology allows me to electronically communicate with others;

Second, electronic communications can be monitored and recorded by anyone at any time;

Third, nothing can truly be erased in cyberspace;

Fourth, my parents are doing their best to raise me with good character, morals, and values;

Fifth, since my parents have provided me the use of a cell phone, I am to use it responsibly and respectfully;

I,____________________, do hereby agree to the following;

  1. I understand that the cell phone is the property of my parents and I am being allowed to use it with my parents’ permission and any mis-use of it will immediately result in loss of the privilege of using it.
  2. I understand that every text message I receive, or send, may be read by my parents, teachers, and law enforcement officers. If asked, I agree to give my phone to adults in charge without any question or hesitation.
  3. I’ll not send text or generate anything in cyberspace containing profanity of sexually suggestive messages. If crude/inappropriate pictures or messages are sent to me, I’ll let my parents know so we can discuss and take action, if necessary.
  4. I agree text messages/calls received or sent by me can be monitored by my parents. I’ll also not use my phone to communicate with strangers or people I have not met in person and know.
  5. I’ll not read/sent text messages or make/receive calls during the hours that I am at school, or doing any kind of job (homework, chores, babysitting, etc.)
  6. If my grades at school fall or my performance in other activities is affected by the use of the phone, I will agree to further restrictions of its use until the problem is resolved.
  7. I’ll not read/send texts or make/receive calls during a meal with others.
  8. While visiting with or riding in a car with adults, I’ll turn my cell phone off and put it away unless its use is necessary and polite.
  9. I’ll not read/send texts or make/receive calls after _______ on weeknights/school nights. On weekends, holidays and summer breaks, I’ll not do either, as referenced above, after an agree upon time as set by my parents.
  10. My phone will go to sleep each night, just as I do, in a place other than where I sleep.
  11. I’ll not read/send texts or make/receive calls while I am running, riding a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or (in the future) driving any vehicle.
  12. I’ll not use my phone to gossip, spread rumors, defame or tear down another person or people.
  13. I’ll pay for a new phone with my own money if my phone is lost, damaged or destroyed.
  14. I’ll not create any secret or second accounts on any apps including Facebook, twitter, Instagram, snapchat, periscope, or any other applications that allow communications with others by word or pictures.
  15. My parents shall have all passwords for any apps on my phone and will have access to it at any time.

By signing below, I agree to abide by the rules of this contract and further agree that a cell phone is a privilege and not a right and its use can be taken away if any of these rules are broken.

Agreed to and accepted this _____ day of _________, 2015

*Robert Marsden Knight is a pastoral counselor in Charleston, South Carolina.