Should I give my kid the handphone? Giving the mobile phone to your child is a passport to technological freedom and opens the floodgates to problems like cyber game addiction and other social issues! Is there an appropriate age for handphone or mobile phone ownership?
My kids don’t own a handphone. Yes! They have asked numerous times and they have even presented arguments on why they should own a mobile phone.
They have cited:
- I can find them at all times when I give them a mobile phone.
- When I want to pick them up from school, all I need is to call and they will appear at the pickup bay.
- They need a handphone to communicate with their friends.
- They need to follow what’s going on in the class WhatsApp chats
- If there’s a change of plans, they can contact us and vice versa.
As you can see, the arguments are well thought out and despite their persistent whines, we have NOT relented and my oldest child has survived the last 11 years without a handphone.
To prevent screen addiction in my home, tablets are only allowed in the weekend and even my television set is password protected. I think we can be called Tiger Mums and Dads in the area of “Screen Time”.
Our carefully plotted strategy is based on the theory of limits. We want to limit their screen time with electronic gadgets and slowly give them more access as the kids grow older.
However, we do realise that our days are limited and with our oldest becoming a tween, we will need to give her a handphone in due time. We anticipate that the floodgates will open when she hits Secondary 1, as she will be going out with her church friends and also facing greater peer pressure from her friends.
However, we have decided to give her the handphone with some limitations! Reason being, is that if we are to give her access without restrictions, it will be too difficult to employ any form of restrictions later on.
Therefore here are some of our proposed guidelines, when we give her the handphone:
1. Smartphone or a dumb Nokia Phone?
Communication is mostly by smart messaging services and therefore giving her a dumb phone would be troublesome and too backward for our family. We have decided to give her a smartphone, as Daddy has got a spare smartphone in his drawer, so they will be no additional cost for the family. Besides, with the news that there will be no more 2G network, we have to give that smartphone!
2. Limited Data Plan
There are too many stories of kids busting mobile bills due to their excessive usage. Limited Data plans will naturally restrict usage and teach them the value of being wise with the data. However, this will also reduce the risk of screen time addiction.
We will therefore look for a plan, where we can limit her to X dollars of data a month, or we may get her to co-pay her phone bill as she gets older.
3. Smartphone preloaded with Nanny Devices
I was recently introduced to this 3rd party app called “Screen Time”. It has the ability to lock down and open devices when a situation arises. A parent told me that when it was dinner time and the kids were not coming to the dinner table due to their devices, she locked down the devices and immediately they came to the table. Quite a useful function I must say! 🙂
Am I controlling? Well… like I said, I want to give them access slowly and in a controlled environment. If this 3rd party application can help me in my strategy…why not. Total freedom will come, when she grows older.
And if the kids wants to uninstall the “nanny device”, notification is sent to my handphone, thereby preventing them from making any “funny” modifications to the app.
4. Design a usage contract
Nope. This one is not by the telcos. But this is a personal contract drawn up by Parent and child upon handing over the mobile device. Basically, it is to give me some way of imposing limitations when my teenager behaves irresponsibly with her new device.
In the contract, we will address issues like usage at dinner and amount of mobile usage per day.
Further contractual highlights:
I think it will be essential to highlight that the mobile is a loan and that ultimately it belongs to Daddy and Mummy. (In view of future arguments along the rocky road of parenting 🙂 )
The Mobile phone is a privilege and not a right. And privileges may vary when inappropriate behavior is committed.
Use common sense when taking pictures, as not all pictures are appropriate for circulation on Social media.
Other highlights … still not set in stone … and open to suggestions! 🙂 Meanwhile…we are trying to hide this article from the kids, so as not to give them an unfair advantage when D-DAY approaches! 🙂