Recently, we had a chance to write a feature article on Parent’s World. As I focus on the children’s arena, this is part of my on-going work with the Media Literacy Council
With Parenting and the Smartphone, becoming so much of our everyday lives, there are some natural precautions that we as parents should take. This short article, therefore highlights the new “dangers” that we as parents face.
Here is the unedited version of my article:
My daughter has been bugging me! Every few months, she has been asking me “Daddy, when can I have my own phone?” As any 21st Century Parent, I tried to ignore the question at first, but my 7yo child, has grown to be quite persistent, and after some thought, I was ready to give my precious daughter her answer!
“Nicole, you can have your own mobile, when you go to Secondary School!” Without batting an eyelid, she took the answer as gold, and she began telling all her friends in school that she was going to get her own phone, when she went to secondary school. The story was going to end with a “Happy ever after”, but unfortunately, she came back with a counter-argument over the next few weeks.
“Daddy, my friend started carrying a mobile phone, when she was 6 years old, why can’t I have my mobile earlier?”
Does this sound familiar? Welcome to the world of Parenting! This is a place where decisions cannot be made in isolation, as the whole village or school seems to make an impact on all our Parenting decisions. As much as we would like to wrap our children in a bubble, trends in society do play a prominent role in our parenting decisions. As our Society is grappling with the influence of Technology and Social Media on the adult world, we as parents are learning how to filter these influences against our Parenting Decisions.
What made me decide on the “Magic age” of 13 for Nicole to own a mobile?
First off, I would like to say that there is no “magic age”, as numbers do not determine maturity! There is certainly no “magic formula” in Parenting, as each child is different, and gifted with differing personalities. As a practical Singaporean, I came to my decision based on costs and lifestyle considerations. Looking at my daughter’s lifestyle, I feel that although some of her friends might have their own Smart Phones, I do not feel that it is a necessary device for her at the moment. Considering that Mummy drives Nicole to school, she does not really her own mobile, unless in an emergency.
As she spends all her time with us on the weekends, the Smart Phone does feel more like a baby sitting device, rather than a necessity. As kids do have a tendency to lose their “possessions”, I find it rather painful to lose a mobile device in between my pay checks.
Being a firm believer in Role Modelling, I feel that it will be quite difficult for me to deny my eldest daughter a mobile, when she is 13, especially when her Parents are always using one.
Aren’t you afraid of Sexual Predators, Cyber Bullying or Cyber Addiction, by opening her up to a Smart Phone?
Of course I am! Remember my hesitation to her question! However, life is a journey, and having been down the trodden path that she has taken, I sincerely hope that my influence on her life will have prepared her enough for the journey ahead.
In fact, preparation already starts when she is a 5yo. Besides the restriction on her hours online, I have been telling her true life stories of what happens on the internet. From Sexting to Responsible Citizenship on Facebook, I have been giving her as many case studies as possible to highlight the repercussions of irresponsible citizenship. Parenting is no different in the 21st century as in centuries past, as Parental involvement is of upmost importance. Research always shows that active parents will always create platforms for more healthy and confident children.
Parenting a 13yo is definitely different from Parenting a 7yo.
I remember having a heightened fear of being different when I experienced changes in my body, and I definitely wanted to fit in with my friends. Technological devices need not be instruments that are feared and disregarded. I believe that technology can be helpful rather than a liability, especially when used wisely. It is with this notion that I will allow my child to have a mobile at this age, as not having one at 13yo or more will do more harm than good. I would not want my daughter to be a “cyber dinosaur”, especially when all her friends are carrying a mobile, and the demands are not too extravagant. I believe that her ability to own her own mobile in this case, should fit in with social norms.
How about my fears of abuse with regard to the internet and mobile usage?
It is in my hope that, all the early years of parenting during her adolescent years will have borne fruit, and that she will be able to handle her Smart Phone and the Internet world wisely. Am I fearful about this prospect? Yes! But Parenting a teenager requires a changing of gears, and a bit of “letting go of the apron strings”, as difficult as it may sound.