You may have heard of author Janell Burley Hofmann and her iPhone contract. Last year, on Christmas morning, she gave her then 13-year-old son a smartphone, which he quickly used to snap photos, text his friends and generally disappear into the internet.
Taken aback by his response, Hofmann sat down that night and wrote out a contract outlining rules for her son. He was restricted to using the phone during certain hours, was not allowed to bring it to school, and was required to use proper phone etiquette (among other things).
What followed was a media storm, sparking a conversation on technology and how teenagers and adults use it.
With her experience in writing about technology and how it relates to the modern family, Hofmann has published a book, entitled “iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up.” In it, she shares anecdotes about her families’ experiences, as well as how restricing her son caused her to reflect on her own use of smart phones and devices.
Hofmann says that now her entire family enjoys limiting their use of technology.
“We have device free day. We’ll go to the beach, and all devices have to stay at home. And that includes the adults.”
Though, opening up about her kids’ relationship to the internet can be dangerous territory.
Hofmann says that the general agreement in selecting material for the book was that if her kids were old enough to feel the story reflected only on their younger selves, then it was alright to include. Still, it can be difficult to share personal stories, especially those that are embarrassing.
Hofmann points out, though, that her knowledge comes from being honest about her experiences.
“In no way do I think that I have all the answers for everybody else or my own family. I had to make myself look human, which I was happy to do, but you have to share some of those struggles.”