If you were to walk in the front door of the house I grew up in, your eyes would be immediately drawn to the fixture on the wall in front of you. And like many others, you would turn to me with wide eyes, pointing with a full arm extended, and ask “what is that?”

No, it wasn’t a weird painting or mounted head or anything, it was much more horrifying.

A true old style rotary phone with bells on top that ring when somebody called. 

Why is it horrifying you ask? Have you ever dialed a full phone number on one of those things? The novelty is lost immediately when you realize you’re dialing a phone number that includes several nine’s and zero’s. Five minutes after you started, your call is actually ringing. In fact I think it was faster back in the day when you just told the operator what number you wanted to connect to…

My kids however are fascinated by the thing. The rotary dial that spins back each time with its many clicks and the clanging bells when it rings are all things of amazement because they’ve never lived in a house with a landline. We cut the cord before they were born and haven’t had a traditional phone in our home for many years. This was all wonderful and hasn’t been a problem until our daughter was old and mature enough to stay at home by herself or babysit and now we found ourselves with a problem.

How will she contact us to ask how to put out a grease fire?

Now every parent must weigh if and when they will provide their children a mobile phone. Our rational (or irrational based on your view) for doing so now are several things. Its not gospel and I’ll admit the first one is probably the main reason (though number four is a close second…)

Convenience: It’s very easy and comforting to be able to know you can reach your child or your child can reach you at anytime.

Cost: We already own the device and to be added to our mobile phone plan was much less then to buy another phone/system or landline.

Reliability: We have tried the wifi only route for awhile, and while we never had real problems, our internet goes out enough and the call quality was sketchy enough to make me nervous.

Motivation: To be honest she responds with positive behavior when threatened to lose her technology. (we work on heart issues too, but I admit to taking this easy route…a lot…)

Maturity: This is the kicker. If we didn’t feel she was able to handle all the dangers that a mobile phone brings (as we walk alongside her) we wouldn’t give her access to one. We’ve done all we can do to safeguard it technologically and we’re working every day to safeguard her heart.

So with that, here is the contract and rules we gave our daughter when we gave her a mobile phone of her very own. This was inspired by Cameron Moll’s contract he wrote for his son.

It’s kinda long but this is kinda a big deal.

You do not own this phone. Mom and Dad (mostly dad :) paid for the phone and pay the bill each month. It has been given to you to use and manage. Do good with it and you will find an incredible return on your investment.

Proverbs 3:9
Honor the Lord with the abundance he has given to you.

We understand that accidents happen. Both mom and I have dropped, scratched, and broken our phones and we were responsible to pay to get them fixed or replace them. You also will be responsible to fix or replace your phone if it is broken or lost. A case will be provided to you free of charge provided it doesn’t have a weird hole in the back that shows off the Apple logo like a trampstamp.

From 7pm to 7am the phone will be in its charging station.

Mom and I love you so much and because of that we desire to make sure you are safe. Part of making you safe is to watch over you. When you were little we watched you every momement of the day. As you’ve grown you have gained wisdom and knowledge. We have granted you liberty to make some decisions and we don’t need to watch over you as closely. As you grow you will continue to gain more trust and more liberty. Because we love you and want you to be safe we will continue to watch over you online. Until you become responsible for living on your own we will have access to your device, logins and passwords. If you break our trust you will lose privileges and your phone. We’ll learn together and counsel with you on decisions.

Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

It may sound trite, but you really do hold more computing power in your hand than the entire Apollo 11 module that landed on the moon. Use it to do amazing things!

Prov. 22:29 
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. 

You’ve been gifted with incredible creativity and skill so use it and create, don’t just consume. Avoid the trap of mindlessly consuming others’ thoughts and productions. Leave an incredible “digital footprint” in this wonderful world you’re a part of.

Ex. 35:31-33
He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with hskill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.

Always remember that real life is better than any photo, status update, tweet, story, or video you’ll ever find online. Exceptions include the DMV and sermons in which your dad is preaching.

Don’t photograph everything and don’t post every picture you take. Curate your photos and create something beautiful every time you post. Duck lips are “ew.”

Digital technologies “need to be our servants, not our masters” (M. Russell Ballard). Be a master of the technology at your disposal. Not just your phone, but all technology. Don’t allow your device to become an idol or become the end all in your life.

1 Corinthians 6:12
You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything

Unless you become an CIA spy or a superhero, you won’t mask your identity in real life. So don’t do it online either. Use your full name in usernames whenever possible. Exposing your true identity is a great way to keep virtual behavior in check. Walk in the light.

Ephesians 5:11-14
Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible.

Your words have incredible power. Use them to encourage not to tear down. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

Proverbs 18:21
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. 

Balance your musical tastes. Don’t get locked into one style.  Be different than your peers and explore the greatness and beauty that exists outside the Top 40. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. (FYI, playing Justin Bieber songs on your phone cause it to lock and shutdown)

Do not use this device to view inappropriate photos or videos of others, and do not share similarly inappropriate photos or videos of yourself with others. If you encounter something inappropriate, delete it, or close it, whatever it takes. Just as importantly, make a mental note of the path that led to the encounter to help you avoid it in the future.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Related, “only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your message or picture for all time” (David A. Bednar). Nothing is forever except for things posted online. This is possibly why your mom and I have never posted that rap video we made.

Proverbs 18:7
The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips.

Always answer calls or respond to messages from Mom and Dad.

Be where you are. You needn’t check messages, updates or play games every minute there is downtime. Don’t divide your attention among those around you by projecting yourself elsewhere through texting or messaging. Give those in your presence the respect they deserve.

Learn to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of striking up a conversation with those around you! Unless its that creepy guy who keeps asking you out, try not to use your phone as a means of avoiding others.

Keep your phone put away during certain events in which proper etiquette demonstrates self-discipline, such as family meals, at the movies, at school, in church, and so on.

Lastly, use your phone to glorify God. Enjoy it for the good gift that it is. Create beautifully, laugh, encourage, be inspired and learn to love God more from it.