Two days ago, I came across a post by Ms Janell Burley Hofmann in the Huffington Post regarding an iPhone she had gifted her 13-year old, on condition he would agree to a written contract of rules. All of us who are parents of tweens and teens should read this post and then share it with our kids.
It got me thinking! Perhaps, like a driving license, we should be allowed to use smart-phones only after we pass a phone license exam.
We would need to understand and follow these rules:
1. The smart-phone is an instrument that allows communication. It is not a person, not something you can fall in love with or make love to…(even if is an iPhone 5).
2. Every call does not have to be answered. If you are busy, or with someone, or in a movie, or taking some quiet time out, let the calls go to voicemail, or turn off your phone.
3. Conversely, don’t expect every call to be answered. Don’t keep calling incessantly, if someone does not pick up. If it is important, send an SMS or leave a voicemail.
4. Hence, if you use voicemail, check it regularly.
5. If you are at lunch or dinner with family or friends, or for that matter even with business associates, focus on what they are saying and have a real conversation. Keep the phone on silent, or off or diverted. Even glancing at the phone occasionally to look at alerts can be irritating. 99.9% of all calls / messages are never emergencies…
6…except when it comes to children, spouses and parents. Pick those calls up no matter what! Family should come first, irrespective of the situation you are in…you can excuse yourself and take those calls. This is the only exception to points 2, 3 and 5.
7. For all kids. Always, always pick up phones that say “Mummy” or “Daddy”.
8. Talk softly. Be aware of how your voice carries and modulate accordingly. Cover your mouth with the other hand if required.
9. Don’t walk and text or read from your smart-phone. In India, especially Mumbai, there is always a pothole or a raised pavement slab just waiting to trip you.
10. Don’t drive and talk or text. Thankfully there are laws regarding this, but trust me…the danger of an accident is real.
11. Text / SMS / email. These are non-intrusive and allow the other person enough time to get back. Calls are intrusive and hence imply that something is important…unless the call is to catch up with friends and family…
12…in which case, phones are not a replacement for real human contact. If it’s possible to meet, do so and put your phone away or diverted or off and spend time with the other person(s) and give him/her/they, your full attention.
13. If the battery dies out, or you lose the phone, enjoy the time out this has given you. And to quote Ms. Hofmann, “be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out)”.
14. Be a little smart as well. Backup your Contacts and Calendar. Use Google Contacts / Calendar or iCloud depending on your preference so that these are instantaneously available on your next phone. Backup your photos to Picasa or other similar cloud services.
15. Put your phone away at a fixed time at night and don’t pick up any call or answer any SMS that comes thereafter (points 6 & 7 being the exceptions). My cut-off time for example is 9:00 PM.
Any other rules I may have missed?