Mom’s iPhone Contract with Son Goes Viral

Whenever anything goes viral on the Internet, PR professionals should raise an eyebrow and shift into work mode.

Our industry specializes in public sentiment, so when a video, or in this case a document, resonates widely with the population, we know there is a learning opportunity at hand. This particular story concerns “mommy blogger” Janell Burley Hofmann, her 13-year-old son Gregory and an iPhone.

Like many mothers with teenagers, Ms. Hoffman had to decide whether or not to give her son an iPhone this Christmas. She ultimately did, but the gift came with a contract she wrote herself and posted on her blog, defining the terms of use and delineating rules of conduct regarding said phone.

The list of 18 rules cover everything from where and when Gregory may use the phone to his responsibilities in case he should lose it due to bad behavior or stupidity. Hoffman was especially adamant that Gregory not let the phone come between himself and the real world around him–in other words, he is absolutely forbidden from using it to watch porn.

Ms. Hoffman’s post has received more than 21,000 Facebook likes and 1,247 tweets, not to mention intense coverage in the media, both print and online. What’s going on here?

Judging from comments and reactions to Gregory’s iPhone contract, the public connected with the themes of parenting, civility and the complex impact technology has had on our culture. Savvy tech brands and PR specialists should take notice: The public loves its technology, but we’re wary of the lawless freedom such devices allow. We want boundaries–we just want to determine those boundaries ourselves.

Our culture is slowly emerging from a rough period that we, the public, helped create by buying houses we couldn’t afford, spending recklessly and both participating in and promoting a culture that valued financial gain over common sense and decency. Like teenagers, we selfishly ignored the rules that help our society provide most of its citizens with an unprecedented quality of life; those universal maxims that teach responsibility, humility and perspective.

The American public of 2013 is very different than it was just a few years ago. That’s probably a good thing–iPhone porn and all.