The Smart-Phone License

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?


  • Govind Gadiyar wrote:

    Also, let the kids know that you are paying money from your hard earned savings.

    That this phone was invented by some highly intelligent and innovative persons by working hard, it is not invented by you, so be humble and do not take too much pride in it’s ownership.

  • cedric dsouza wrote:

    Can’t dispute any of them, but 15 rules are probably 10 too many! I have just 3 and this my kids remember.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Cedric. Which are those 3?

  • We all need to make a conscious effort to reduce our usage of smart phones especially when we are with someone. I guess such widespread usage I’m India is due to the low charges compared to the same abroad


  • Vikas Sharma wrote:

    Nice thoughts… why kids… this actually applies to we adults more than kids..

  • This is an extremely useful article.. should be printed on ALL handset user manual COVER page…and yougsters should be reminded these guidelines frequently..

  • Would like to add one important point..

    Always plan and communicate your schedule/weekend plans in advance(like we used to in B.C.Mobile phone era!),this avoids a lot of confusion/frustration at the last minute when u are unable to reach someone due to network/battery issues..

  • – No games and useless apps.
    – Maintain privacy avoid giving out your number to all and sundry.

  • jamna varadhachary wrote:

    These rules are applicable to young adults, mid and late teens as well.

  • Great and infomative article.

    Shyam Bajaj.

  • Shailesh wrote:

    If possible keep the phone on vibrator while in public place or on move.

    High pitched filmi songs, bhajans as a Ring tones /caller tune are quite irritating -can be replaced with softer music.

  • Shailesh wrote:

    If possible keep the phone on vibrator while in public place or on move.

    High pitched filmi songs, bhajans as a Ring tones /caller tune are quite irritating -can be replaced with softer music.

  • Shall practice them and definitely share them with my husband and kids. Thanks:)

  • Jayesh desai wrote:

    Like your rule about sms, email to communicate. Have used it many times and was rewarded with positive attitude in subsequent interaction. You never know if other person is engaged in consultation or in OT or driving. In fact I feel all professional should use this as primary mode of communication.
    keep on spreading good thoughts and sharing with your readers.

  • cedric dsouza wrote:

    Bhavin – I said my kids remember the 3 rules. I never said that I did.

  • cedric dsouza wrote:

    My 3 rules. I can wake the kids up at 3.00 am and they will recite this in a heart beat…. and yes I am evil enough to have tried it.

    1. First family, then friends, then phone, (then face book)
    2. Never text and drive. If that doesn’t kill me, my dad will.
    3. The phone is a privilege not my right. Behavior and grades will preserve this.

  • Good one. Not only for kids but some adults (?) Too.

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    Hi, Im in Dubai and just saw this email. Just yesterday i bought a smart phone! Well i’ll keep these rules in mind and pass on to my kids and my grand kids too!
    An informative article indeed!
    Happy New Year!

  • My son demanded a phone of his own last year.

    He is 5yrs old!!! Surely he didnt get one but now he is happy with the I touch and pretends calling his friends and grandparents on it!!!

    cute but scary!!!

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