More tech abuse education needs to be done in this country before teens are actively engaged, he said. In parts of Europe and Asia, for instance, kids learn how to handle their digital lives as formal training in third or fourth grade.
"Here they think of it like it's part of their body, and they treat it that way," Greenfield said.
Hofmann's contract is her own attempt at education. "Don't take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity."
And she gets downright inspirational toward the bottom: "Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO — fear of missing out."
Hofmann also urges her boy to, "Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling."
And her final word: "You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together."
Aisha Sultan in St. Louis studied parenting in the digital age as a Knight Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. As parents, she said, "We've sort of hit a tipping point. The conversation has shifted from wow, isn't all this technology cool to wow, how do we control it? We can't eliminate it completely."
But parental frustration is mounting, Sultan said. She cited last year's case of a father who shot up his daughter's laptop over a profanity-infused Facebook rant against her parents. He recorded the act and earned more than 23 million YouTube views for his trouble.
Before the conversation with our kids begins, Greenfield said, parents have to deal with their own digital obsessions.
"Parents have to have limits, too," he said. "We have to be brutally honest with ourselves on our own use and abuse."
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