The Mobile Phone Dilemma

To give – To have – To hold

During the Q&A time at a recent parenting conference a mother in desperation cried out for advice; “ I am not leaving this place today unless you tell me if I can give my 12-year old daughter a mobile phone or not”.

Mom Clara had very legitimate reasons for agonizing over this matter as the family had already experienced cyber-bullying.  Mom Clara, like many other parents discovered with horror that the Whats-app of some other 12-year old’s contained not only explicit photo’s but explicit conversations of a sexual nature. Her fear was that once her daughter had her own mobile phone, she would be prone to cyber bullying.

The choice whether or not to give a child a mobile can only be made by the responsible parent. Many parents are of the opinion that if they give their child a mobile phone, they are not only exposing their child to the “bad” in the world but also responsible for introducing their child to the dark side of life.

Let’s be honest, technology is here to stay in all its forms; mobile phones, laptops, computers, iPad’s, iPhone’s etc. The sooner we make peace with this, the closer we will be to finding answers.  Withholding technology from a child will not only alienate them from you as a parent but also from society.  It will place them in the dark ages with regards to education and future work opportunities. Even the most menial task in life requires contact with the “outside” through 21st century technology.

The choice

  1. Do not take up the victim role before you have even decided to give your child a mobile phone or not. It is impossible to think clearly from a victim platform as you have mentally already lost the “fight”.
  2. Move away from the mentality that everything and everybody (other teens) are evil. There is a lot of good in society.
  3. Move away from the mentality that technology is evil. Technology in itself is one of the most amazing and fascinating developments of the 20th century from which mankind is benefiting greatly. Focus on the good and encourage positive use of a mobile phone.

Partnership

  1. Do not take full responsibility when giving your child a mobile phone. If the child is old enough to have a mobile, they are also old enough to take/share responsibility for the way it is used.
  2. Set clear boundaries, do not be afraid to make your expectations clear regarding the wise use of the phone.
  3. If agreed to have the phone a good idea will be to have a contract between child and parent. Ask your child what they would like to put in such a contract, example:
  1. I agree that having a phone is no guarantee that I will have it after one month. I agree that the first month is just a trail period to test if I really want it and if it works for me and my family.
  2. I agree to keep my phone with me at all times and not lend it out.
  3. I agree to use it wisely at all times.
  4. I agree that the prime purpose for the time being is to provide instant contact between myself and my family. All other communication is secondary.
  5. I agree not to give out my number to everyone who asks, especially those I do not know well.
  6. I agree to have a tracker on my phone whereby my parents can track me (for my own safety).
  7. My parents will have access to all of my conversations on my phone. This will be revised every year.
  8. I will not load an app onto my mobile unless discussed with my parents.
  9. I will make a monetary contribution to the airtime for the phone.
  10. As a family we will put our mobile phones on silent during meal and family times.
  11. I agree that the mobile phone will not become the mode of communicating with my family – face to face is the choice of communicating.
  12. Mobile phones may not be taken with to bed – all mobile phones to be placed in a box after dinner and can be collected again on the way to school and not before.

These are just some ideas of what such an agreement can look like, it can be customized according to the individual needs.

“It is painful to watch children trying to show off for parents who are engrossed in their mobile phones. Children are nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when parents used to read to them without the mobile phone by their side or watch football games or Disney movies without having the BlackBerry handy”.  Sherry Turkle

What is good for the geese is good for the gander

Parents need to set the example for the correct and sensible use of technology. If mom and dad act like addicted techno junkies, they can expect nothing less from their children.

I more than often see parents taking out mobile phones, ipad’s and the like to give to their children when in church. The aim: to keep them quiet and occupied. You are creating confusion in the mind of your child and laying the foundation for the misuse of such technology. What is the message you are sending to your child?  If you have problems keeping your children under control in church the problem may lie with the parent and not the child. Technology is not the only go-to to keep children occupied or well behaved.

Pokemon, Pokemongo, Friends, School, Internet, Phone

A war zone

Parents have the full right to withhold access to technology from their children but doing so for too long will result in a war between parent and child and from the outset the parent will be the enemy.

Age does not correlate with emotional maturity nor sensitivity and the parent will have to decided when the child is emotionally ready. For some it may be at 12 years of age, for others only at 16 and for others even later.

Rather expose your child to technology in the safe environment of the home than in an unknown environment of a friend’s house.

Finally ask the right question?

  1. Why does my child want a mobile phone?
  2. Is it an absolute necessity or a luxury?
  3. What will it be primarily used for?

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the mobile phone”.  Steven Spielberg