By Cynthia Aber & Maureen Nakatudde
Parents today are succumbing to their children’s demand for gifts and gadgets. Do not forget that when you hand a phone to a child, you are opening a whole new world of exposure to them.
Children in this era can use a mobile phone for much more than just making and receiving calls, sending and receiving texts and images. They can also upload or download to videos from websites. Besides, they can broadcast their status and location.
This is because technology is fast advancing, enabling cellular phones to have more applications. Times are changing, and the problem is that parenting is not. We are still the parents and it is our responsibility to say, “No, not yet”.
Most parents, like Madina Naigulu, always justify their children owning mobile phones. She says: “My daughter, Rebecca, is 14. She always wanted a phone, so I promised her one if she passed her exams highly. When I bought the phone, she was so happy and it always motivated her to read harder. I told her if she misbehaved or performed poorly in class, I would take it away. I bought it for easy communication in case of any emergency at home, when I am not with her. I also use it to send her mobile money.”
However, Naigulu says the daughter now is always play ing games on the phone and she communicates with her friends for more than an hour. She is so busy on phone that she has even failed to read her books and avoids housework because she is on Facebook.
“I do not allow her to take the phone to school, but one day, she sneaked it in and was suspended after dodging classes with her friends. They stayed back in the dormitory and one teacher became suspicious when she saw many students gathered on one bed — they were making phone calls. Now, she leaves it at home because I promised to take it away from her if she takes it to school again,” Naigulu says.
Madina also says she was worried that a man would exploit her daughter if she phone that she had failed to provide. So she bouhgt it to fight that temptation. She feels that a mobile phone is good for security reasons, especially in situations where a parent is not able to pick up a child from school and needs to inform the child of who will pick them.
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?
When children get immersed in using mobile phones, their socialisation skills usually take a nose dive. It is easy to ignore people around you while concentrating on phone games, texting or on Facebook. While some children may be very creative on phone in their day-to-day activities, their creativity dwindles until they become dull.
Some students get drawn into pornography on the internet and other applications like Whatsapp, where lurid images and videos are shared. These divert their attention and lead them down a slippery slope into addictions and early indulgence in sexual relationships.
Parents may praise mobile phones for enabling easy communication, but the same way they can reach you is the same way questionable people can communicate with them. In case the child’s encounter with the other party goes bad, the parent might be the last to know.
Some children plan escapes from school or home to discotheques as they are in touch with their peers. This can lead to school dropouts and a child’s future is ruined.
The student who has a mobile phone draws the attention of all the others who would like to use it. This lowers the child’s concentration. Expensive phones can lead to peer groups, which drive their mates into inappropriate relationships like in love affairs for money, so as to be able to buy it too. And in case the phone gets stolen, it disrupts them greatly.
Most children may fail to buy airtime regularly and start lying to their parents or stealing to get money for airtime.
House work also takes a back seat compared to chatting with friends.
CONSIDERING BUYING ONE?
A parent should sit the child down and ask why he or she needs a mobile phone and whether they will manage to buy airtime. If you must buy it, consider a basic and cheap phone.
It is also the parent’s responsibility to teach children about phone etiquette. For example, some children fail to control their impulses and might call anyone, anytime and from any place, even in a classroom during lessons.
Teach them what is inappropriate and how to avoid giving their phone contact to whoever who asks.