Last Christmas, we gave Alex — who was 11 at the time — an Android smart phone for Christmas. We had an extra HTC G1 lying around, and she’s been doing great in school, so we figured she deserved it.
One could argue that 11 years old is too young for a cell phone, and in principle, I would agree. However, some of her friends at school were getting them, and with the after-school programs and busy schedule, it helps with logistics that she can call us whenever she needs to. Also, we are a very tech-oriented family, so it seemed like a good opportunity to teach some good habits while she is still (somewhat) interested in what her parents have to say.
I gave her a big lecture about responsibility, carrying around a valuable device, and basic care — especially not losing the phone. And so, a few months later, she lost the phone.
I found it a few weeks later, buried in the back seat of the van. But I wanted to tighten the reigns a little bit before giving it back to her. So, we made her sign this agreement.
One topic that is missing from the agreement, but which we may want to add in the future, is a rule about talk time. The jury is still out on the possible health effects of too much cell phone use. Alex doesn’t use her phone for voice chat very much, so it hasn’t been an issue. But if she starts using up all our family plan minutes, or just plain talking too much, we’ll add a section specifically limiting talk time.
Formal Smart Phone Agreement
The parent(s) or guardian(s) of _______________________ (“CHILD”) hereby allow CHILD the privilege of owning and using a “smart” cellular telephone, provided the following conditions are met:
1. Allowed Hours of Operation
Talking, texting (incl. any form of chat or instant messaging), Internet access, or games are only allowed during the following hours: ___________________ . At all other times, the phone may only be used as an alarm clock, calendar, or time management tool, and the ringer volume will be set to silent (or vibrate). No calls or messages may be answered outside of the stated hours — CHILD’s friends will simply need to wait until the next day to get a reply.
2. Regular Charging Station
Every night, the phone will be stationed for charging at the following location: ________________________. It will be plugged in for charging so the phone is charged for use on the next day.
3. Regular Carry Location
When traveling with the phone, it will be held in the following location: ________________________. If, at any time, the phone is in neither in the regular carry location, nor in the regular charging station, it will be immediately reported as missing to the parent(s) or guardian(s).
4. Web Usage
When at home, the phone will only be used to access the web using the home WiFi (802.11) network, so the phone is subject to the additional security of the home network’s firewall and filtering rules.
5. Camera Usage
Any pictures taken with the phone should be considered private, and will not be posted publicly (especially to the Internet) without prior approval from the parent(s) or guardian(s). CHILD will not use the camera to take any inappropriate pictures.
Sometimes smart phones need to be rebooted, due to software failure. But if the phone malfunctions regularly, or if the battery life in standby mode becomes less than 4 hours, CHILD will notify the parent(s) or guardian(s) so the phone can be repaired or replaced.
Generally, the phone shall always be left powered on and in standby mode. If CHILD will be outside of cell phone coverage area for more than 2 hours, the phone may be powered off for that period to conserve battery power.
7. Software Applications
CHILD must receive verbal permission from the parent(s) or guardian(s) before installing any 3rd party applications. CHILD must also obtain verbal permission for the price of any non-free (for-pay) applications.
CHILD’s friends may only borrow the phone to call their parents.
CHILD must comply with all school regulations regarding cell phone usage.
10. Phone Etiquette
CHILD must practice the following rules of cell phone etiquette:
- The person in front of you has priority over the cell phone. If CHILD is in a conversation with someone, CHILD will silence any incoming calls and reply to the call afterwards.
- CHILD will not have a phone conversation in a restaurant. CHILD will excuse himself/herself and step outside to have a phone conversation.
- CHILD will silence and store the phone during any movie, play, or other performance.
- CHILD will not use the phone while in a restroom.
11. Acknowledgement of Privilege
CHILD acknowledges that cell phone ownership is a privilege that may be revoked at any time, for any reason. The parent(s) or guardian(s) may separately require partial or complete payment for the monthly expense of having a cell phone account.
CHILD’s Signature Date