iRules

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IMG_2062‘Member this?

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good and responsible 13-year-old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. 

Shortly after Janell Burley Hofmann published that post — complete with an 18-point contract — the post went viral. Within two days, she and the contract she’d created with her son were national news. They were on Good Morning America. The rules were passed, parent to parent, throughout cyberspace. I lost count of how many times I saw it in my social media feeds, but it was definitely more than once.

The rules were a viral hit. So perhaps it’s no surprise that an iRules book is now on the market.

iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing up was published in May 6, 2014. I just happened to be a bookstore May 7th and picked up a copy.

Hofmann had me from the first line of her book: “My children were yelled at in the making of this book,” she writes, just under “A Note to the Reader.” This, I think, is a woman who understands my life. A woman who is willing to be honest about life and parenting.

That honesty continues throughout the book. Hofmann is a real mom trying to incorporate her personal and family values into the tech-soaked culture we find ourselves in. She introduces us to her family — herself, her hubby and 5 kids (2 boys, ages 14 and 11, and 3 girls, ages 9, 7 and 5) — and lets us know how each person in her family uses and benefits from tech.

What I love most about her book: She doesn’t vilify tech. She doesn’t say or imply that it’s evil or dangerous to our kids’ health. She doesn’t rage against cell phones or video games for kids. Instead, she acknowledges the many ways technology enhances her family’s life and carefully outlines some common tech stumbling blocks. Concerned about how to handle sexting? Hofmann has you covered; see Chapter 5 – Sex and Technology. Her book touches on all the parental sore spots — kids’ fear of missing out, tech interfering with sleep, digital etiquette and much, more more.

Hofmann doesn’t come across as preachy; rather, the tone is helpful, encouraging and informative. iRules never tells you how to parent your kids in terms of tech; it provides info, options and things to think about. Hofmann shares her version of the iRules, but doesn’t insist you adopt them as your own. (Which is a good thing. Neither I nor my kids are interested in a “no video games, computer games or apps on school days” rule.)

Best of all, Hofman doesn’t present herself as a tech or parenting saint. On page 222, under How This Book Made Me Better, she writes, “I am so guilty. I find myself constantly telling my children to ‘wait’ and ‘hold on’ while I scroll through my phone for personal or professional emails…” Her tech behavior, she realized, was setting a bad example for her kids, and interfering with the kind of connection she craves for her children and family. So she made some changes. (Change #1: “No social networking sites, email, or social chatty texts from 4:00 pm through bedtime. This is hard and not always consistent, but it is the goal.”)

The only thing I did not like about this book: it’s written from the perspective of a functioning, two-parent family. Setting and enforcing iRules (or any kind of family rules) works best when parents are on the same page. That seems to be the reality for the Hofmann family, but it’s not reality for a lot of families. Establishing tech rules is challenging enough; establishing and enforcing rules when the parents are unable to agree on an approach is a challenge of the next level. I realize that’s a parenting issue, not a tech-specific issue, but it would have been nice to see it addressed in the book. (Suggestion for the next edition: What to Do When Parents Don’t Agree on Tech Rules.)

Hofmann’s publisher has agreed to give one free copy of iRules to a BuildingBoys reader. Want to win? Here’s how to play:

  • Leave a comment below, sharing your concern/problem re kids and tech — or a creative solution you’ve found.  Be sure to include your contact info, so I can contact you if you win! One comment = one entry. To earn additional entries, you can…
  • Tweet the contest. Each tweet (up to one per day per entrant) equals one more entry. Please include our Twitter tag (@BuildingBoys so we know you’ve tweeted!
  • Mention the contest on Facebook. Again, be sure to let us know. (You can find us on Facebook at BuildingBoys.)
  • Mention the contest in a blog post and include a link back to BuildingBoys.

The contest will run through midnight Central Time Sunday, June 1. The winner will be drawn at random via http://www.random.org/ and will be notified ASAP.

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