To give or not to give – smartphone

Steve Jobs’ invention of the iPhone is probably the number one devilish invention in this modern day in my own opinion. I love it and I hate it. But the hate factor is much higher than the love factor. I love it because it helps to move the world so much faster in terms of news outreach. It rekindles long lost friendships. It helps people to stay in touch with family and friends. It provides entertainment to young and old. It saves time for people on the go answering mails, tabulating spreadsheets and reading up news. It boosts sales, boosts blogs, and it even plays a big part in rallies for international support for humanity cases, swayed voters in presidential elections. It also replaces the need for another gadget- the camera, to pack in the bag, serves as a calculator, etc etc etc.

But with it, comes many problems that I hate to deal with and many social ills too. While it gives a chance of socializing on the go via apps, it inhibits human face to face interaction. It causes compulsive disorder to many of us who are not able to pull our eyes off the screen. It causes car accidents when drivers thought they know better on their concentration when they take their eyes off the road to text the ever so urgent reply. Pedestrians cross the roads blindly with eyes on the smartphone, even though they have a good pair of eyes to look out for oncoming vehicles. And that selfie tragedy, where cases of people fall off the cliff just for one photo to show off on social media. Lastly, it affects me greatly because I will have to eventually deal with the stress and battles with my children over the smartphone.

Missy 11 has no phone yet. One of my friends remarked,”How did you manage to delay the handout of the phone?” Ever since the year when Missy 11 was 9 years old and half of her class had already owned a phone, she had been asking me on this. My reply is always the same: “Wait till you really need it.”

“So unfair!”, “Why?????”, “I want a phone!”, “Everyone is having one, why not me?” hit in my poker face every now and then. So, until this year, when she no longer takes the school bus home, I feel that it is time to give her a mobile phone. As I am writing this post, I have yet to buy one for her. She has been making do with classmates’ phones or calling on the public coin phone.

I told Missy 11 that I will get her a no-frills model before her first overseas sports trip with the school in 2 months time. I was clear that smartphones will only be given after PSLE next year. The reasons that I explained to her were simple:

1) She does not need to use the smartphone apps yet. At this age, she doesn’t read news, use evernote, plan calendar, check emails.

2) I do not want her to waste her time on snapchats, whatsapp, instagram, facebook

3) She only need to use the phone for calls and simple messaging

When the smartphone is not introduced to the child, it takes a whole lot of stress off me. A young child will not be disciplined enough to limit the usage of the phone. An adult can’t even be disciplined enough too. My hubby could not limit the usage of technology at home. I am guilty of spending an hour checking up latest news and people’s lives just before I sleep, and almost never taking off my eyes to look out the window during transit. What’s more, technology is “psychoactive”, they can alter mood or trigger happy feelings. I once read that reading about people’s lives on facebook makes one depressed when one compares own life with others. Teenagers who are undergoing emotional ups and downs during puberty may find it harder to cope.

I learnt from my teenage niece that she wakes up to 500+ whatsapp messages on some days. She is into snapchat and told me that no one uses facebook at her age. I asked her why was that so. She replied that facebook feeds are too wordy and snapchat is about posting a photograph with simple words or wordless. Facebook is for the old. Interesting insight to the teenage world! Not only does the young generation no longer interact at dinner time, they find longer captions or sharing of thoughts in lengthy posts a chore. How often that I hear from friends that their children who have smartphones, take long showers, hide in the bedroom behind closed doors for long hours, and after an hour or so of past bedtime, are spotted with a tiny bright light in the dark bedroom. They implement rules, negotiate as rewards or punishments, give in, give up, and leave them be. I can already see what is in store for me.

Last weekend, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday at a restaurant and we sighted this: the next table was seated 8 adults with parents and teenage children. It was clearly a birthday dinner as they sang the birthday song. Out of the 8 of them, 7 were looking down at big and small screens, some with headphones on, and the only one who did not look at any screen was the birthday person who looked on into space with fingers interlocking one another in front of him. That was the father.

I told to my children to take a sneak peek at this table and they, too, were shocked and condemned the scene. I told them to remember this scene and never ever be like them at the dinner table. When a family eats together, we interact with one another, and catch up on each other’s lives, discuss topics, play with cousins, and talk. Sometimes, Master 9 will come to me and tell me that he is bored. I will tell him to learn to sit down and listen to adult’s conversation and he is welcome to join in. If the French children can learn to sit at the dining table for 3 hours from young (Yeah, I read about this some time ago on the Straits Times and read in disbelief too), surely Asian children can learn from this.

I am going to list down the rules of the no-frills phone or smartphone usage for my future reference when the inevitable day comes. Some of them can be tweaked as we go along when the child shows discipline and in control.

Rule 1 – No phones during meal times, homework time and bedtime

Rule 2 – No gluing eyes on phone while walking and in the car.

Rule 3 – No exceeding the pre-paid value or post-paid plan value of the phone

Rule 4 – Limit the time spent on social media to 30 minutes per day after homework and revision time.

Rule 5 – Ask for permission to download apps

Rule 6 – Daddy and Mummy have the freedom to check on the apps on the phone from time to time

Rule 7 – Not to check beeps and notifications as and when the phone sounds. Turn off notifications during weekdays.

Rule 8 – Fix a time on weekdays for mobile usage (this may be challenging and needs fine-tuning along the way)

Rule 9 – Daddy and Mummy have to be a good role model in mobile phone usage. Use only when necessary. (This rule is more for the Daddy since Mummy has been only checking before bedtime and when the kids are not with me.)

I am not sure if the above rules will work. But at least I am getting prepared for it. When we were young, or rather, just a few years ago, we never had to face the smartphone addiction problem. Life was better back then, I feel. We could interact, we could concentrate, we were more aware of our surroundings, we were less of a show-off.

I wish the smartphone was never been invented.

What rules do you have for your children for mobile phone usage? I would love to learn from you! Do help me share in the comments!

4 thoughts on “To give or not to give – smartphone

  1. Mr. T had a no – frills phone when he was younger, but I worked outside the house and we decided he was old enough to walk home and be by himself for the hour before I got home. And we didn’t have a home phone, so I got him a no frills so he could call and tell me when he got home. Like you, I told him he was too young for a smart phone and didn’t need all the apps! As he showed responsibility with that, it because easier to let him upgrade as needed – and now that he is in high school (last year) he’s been buying his own phones for a couple years now and getting the fancy one he wants!

    • I think phone itself is a necessity for parents to keep track of their children’s safety and whereabouts. It all becomes complicated once the apps influence the person and most people get addicted to different degrees. Mr T is a responsible adult now and when my kids reach this age, the smart phone would probably be a good way to know their circle of friends (provided our relationships are good enough for them to invite me inside) and a common topic of interest haha.

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