Thirteen-year-old Gregory A. Hofmann, the son of Janell B. and Adam F. of Piccadilly Road, never expected to find an iPhone 4 under the Christmas tree this year. And neither he nor his mother, ever would have expected the list of rules that she wrote to go along with the phone to attract as much attention as it has.
But as of Wednesday night, there had already been 1.2 million Internet views of the 18-point contract that Ms. Hofmann wrote and presented to her son along with his new iPhone. Last Sunday, Ms. Hofmann and Gregory were on Good Morning America, talking about his Christmas gift and, more importantly, the contract that went with it. They have been interviewed by Fox local and national news and the contract has been discussed on CNN.
To be clear, when Gregory opened his gift on Christmas morning, there was no contract—yet. Ms. Hofmann, who writes a blog for the Huffington Post, had not yet penned the rules and regulations. She began writing them on Christmas night and by Thursday presented them to her son.
The rules on the contract are at points strict, at other points fun, but offer words of common sense for using the technology. The rules include: “It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?” and “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.”
After going through the rules and, yes, even making a change to one of them, Gregory and his parents agreed to the contract. “Gregory wanted to amend the rule about not bringing the phone to school and asked that he be allowed to take it on days when he is staying late for extracurricular activities or when he goes on a field trip. I agreed,” Ms. Hofmann said.
Ms. Hofmann showed the contract to a few friends and family members. They urged her to share it on her website janellburleyhofmann.com.
Friends began reposting the contract on Facebook, and Ms. Hofmann asked her editor at the Huffington Post if she wanted it for the site. The reply, Ms. Hofmann said, was an immediate and emphatic yes. And that’s when the contract went viral and media requests started pouring in.
I knew there were going to be guidelines with this phone. I knew that was something she would do. It’s about protecting me from the dangers of today’s media and technology.
Because Ms. Hofmann has received so many calls from all over the country as well as all parts of the world, including Australia, Fiji, Toronto, and British Columbia, requesting interviews, the Huffington Post assigned a publicist to schedule the interviews.
“When I asked my editor how she knew this contract would be so well received, she said ‘because it is not cliché and just so genuine,’ “ Ms. Hofmann said.
Son Has No Problem With Contract
While the contract requires that Gregory turn his phone off at 7:30 PM on weeknights and 9 PM on weekends and not take it to school with him and that he silence it when he is in public places such as a movie theater or restaurant, the Wing School 7th grader said he has no problems with the rules or the overwhelming media attention that the contract has elicited.
“I knew there were going to be guidelines with this phone. I knew that was something she would do. It’s about protecting me from the dangers of today’s media and technology,” he said.
As for the media attention, Gregory said he is not the least bit embarrassed by it. “I’m not really concerned about what people are going to think,” he said.
And he has received no chiding from his friends about the contract. “My friends know how my mom is. She’s a great parent and a nice person,” he said.
Although 80 percent of the feedback that Ms. Hofmann has received about this contract has been positive, she has received some negative comments.
“I’ve had people criticize me, saying that I am being over protective or too controlling. One woman even wrote a seven page letter to me criticizing the contract,” she said.
Because cellphones are such a part of today’s culture, I need to be his first teacher on how to navigate these waters.
Gregory, who began asking his mother for a cellphone when he was in 5th grade, had given up hope of receiving one before he entered high school. “There’s just no beating this woman down. I still wanted one but was not expecting one until high school,” he said.
Ms. Hofmann, who initially wanted to wait until he was driving before getting him a phone, began relaxing that minimum age requirement when she noticed some changes in her oldest son.
“I was trying to hold out until he got his license. I’m a big fan of delaying. But this year he started helping me with childcare after school and I could just see how grown up he was becoming and I thought he could handle this,” she said.
“And I knew this might be the last Christmas when I could really wow him with a gift,” she added.
“Anyway, he’s already in this world of technology and I need to teach him how to safely use that technology. Because cellphones are such a part of today’s culture, I need to be his first teacher on how to navigate these waters,” she said.
While some of the rules are specific to cellphone use, most are lessons that can apply to life in general. “Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling,” she wrote.
“These are messages I want to him to have—with or without the iPhone,” she said.
To see the iPhone contract and list of 18 conditions Janell Hofmann created for her son click here.