You may have heard of author Janell Burley Hofmann and her iPhone contract. Last year, on Christmas morning, she gave her then 13-year-old son a smartphone, which he quickly used to snap photos, text his friends and generally disappear into the internet.
Taken aback by his response, Hofmann sat down that night and wrote out a contract outlining rules for her son. He was restricted to using the phone during certain hours, was not allowed to bring it to school, and was required to use proper phone etiquette (among other things).
What followed was a media storm, sparking a conversation on technology and how teenagers and adults use it.
With her experience in writing about technology and how it relates to the modern family, Hofmann has published a book, entitled "iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up." In it, she shares anecdotes about her families' experiences, as well as how restricing her son caused her to reflect on her own use of smart phones and devices.
Hofmann says that now her entire family enjoys limiting their use of technology.
"We have device free day. We’ll go to the beach, and all devices have to stay at home. And that includes the adults."
Though, opening up about her kids' relationship to the internet can be dangerous territory.
Hofmann says that the general agreement in selecting material for the book was that if her kids were old enough to feel the story reflected only on their younger selves, then it was alright to include. Still, it can be difficult to share personal stories, especially those that are embarrassing.
Hofmann points out, though, that her knowledge comes from being honest about her experiences.
"In no way do I think that I have all the answers for everybody else or my own family. I had to make myself look human, which I was happy to do, but you have to share some of those struggles."
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I am on a diet to make me smarter. A media diet. I'm trying to add at least one moment of depth per week to a movie habit that tends to play in the shallow end of the pool. This week my diet included "The Lunchbox," a film that I thought was going to be about relationships and sumptuous Indian food. Embedded therein was a fascinating lesson in business and logistics.
Yes, I know that to a fellow with a hammer, every problem is a nail. To a fellow with a business show, every movie has a lesson in business. "The Lunchbox" is a bittersweet comedy with a plot that pivots on an amazing delivery system in Mumbai, India that has been studied by Harvard researchers.
First of all, the movie: I promise, you will walk out of a viewing ravenous for South Asian food.
"The Lunchbox" is about a woman (Nimrat Kaur) who is trying to recapture the attentions of her husband by cooking and sending him fabulous lunches. The lunch gets delivered to the wrong man. The man, who starts getting the food by mistake and becomes entranced by the aromas, is played with subtle elegance by Irrfan Khan, the veteran actor who played the lead character as an older man in the Oscar-winning movie "Life of Pi."
Let's talk about that delivery service. A messenger known as a dabbawala picks up the lunch box, usually contained in a tiffen, an interlocking column of stainless steel bowls, and is surrounded by an insulating pouch. The 124-year old system for delivering the food that's grown up in Mumbai has long fascinated logistics experts. Messengers move the meals tied to bicycles. They are often stacked onto gurneys for insertion into railway carriages to be picked up by porters at the other end of the line. Many of the porters are semi-literate, yet they do interpret an alphanumeric code.
When the wife complains to the dabbawala at the door that her lunch is going to the wrong man, the deliveryman claims that is impossible because "Harvard says" their system never fails. Real-life studies show the system gets it right, on-time, with an astonishing 99.9 percent success rate. In fact, here is a 2010 case study in the Harvard Business Review.
A great meal like "The Lunchbox" in my media diet deserves a fine dessert. I was able to track down some additional short documentaries on the dabbawala delivery system and I commend one of them to you here:
It is a delivery system with a precision that would make the Post Office, FedEx, UPS and your pizza delivery professional blush with embarrassment.
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