Most people have now heard about the mom who gave her 13 year old son an iPhone for Christmas and included an 18-point contract to go along with it.
I’ve read lots of comments on various blogs and news websites supporting and criticizing the idea, but the important thing for me is that it has generated lots of conversations about the place of technology in our lives. Wanting to build on that idea, I created a mini lesson around this letter for my teachers to use in their Advisory or Flex classes:
When mom Janell Burley Hoffman gave her 13 year-old son an iPhone for Christmas, she included a parent-child contract which she also posted to her blog. There are several ways that this can be used in a Flex or advisory period:
Possible pre-activity discussion: before introducing the idea of the letter, ask who has a phone, and how many students have any kind of agreement with their parents that came with the phone. Is this a verbal or written agreement? What are some of the rules or expectations that have been set-out? All grade 7 & 8 students have a laptop; how many have a written or verbal laptop contract with their parents? What kind of expectations are there?
Either read the letter aloud or have students read it to themselves silently. Then, do one or some of the following:
- Have students rank the 18 rules: which ones could they most live with versus least live with? Which ones do they most dislike but know that they are “good for them”? This could be done as a think-pair-share activity.
- Randomly assign one rule to each student. Have them either defend it from the parent’s perspective or explain why it’s unfair from the child’s perspective.
- Give the 18 rules to your students in text form (via a Haiku Discussion Forum, an email, or GoogleDocs) and ask them to play the part of a parent. They are about to give a smart-phone to their own 13 year-old child. Have them drawn up their own phone contract. They can use all or none of the 18 rules that Janell Burley Hoffman came up with. They can adjust them or even add some of their own. The benefit of using a Haiku Discussion Forum for this is that each of your students can then post their version of their own contract as a new post so that everyone else in the class can read it.
Whichever activity is done, the important thing is to have an open discussion about appropriate etiquette when using technology. Most of these 18 rules aren’t about online safety at all; instead, they’re about common courtesy and could be applied to lots of social situations.