“I wish I could get my child off their phone,” bemoan so many modern-day parents.
“They’re addicted. They don’t play outside, it ruins their social life, they certainly don’t talk to me and it’s destroying their school grades.
I just wish there was a way to stop my child from being on their phone all the time.”
There is one way.
Don’t buy them a smartphone.
There is another way.
Don’t pay for their data.
But they need it for safety.
True, smartphones provide immediate communication which could keep some children safe in certain situations. However, if the rationale behind buying a child a phone is safety, then buy them a handset. Buy them a phone that only performs the functions of phone calls and SMS, because that is enough to keep a child safe if the bus doesn’t arrive, soccer training is cancelled or they can’t get a taxi after a party late at night. Granted, handsets do have games on them, but your child will soon tire of Tetris.
Interestingly, many parents are forgetting that they themselves grew up in an era without mobile phones, and the vast majority of them were never abducted, assaulted, abused or harmed while out of sight of their parents.
Unfortunately, many parents have succumbed to the subliminal scare campaigns which mobile phone providers use to boost sales. Phone companies and service providers understand this fear and do nothing to quell it, knowing full well that the fear boosts sales. This, despite the fact that research indicates that the majority of people who abuse children are known to the victim, and they inflict this abuse in situations for which a mobile phone would not have helped the child.
This may sound paranoid, but examine the advertising of smartphones. Most of the campaigns play on fear and fashion. We are yet to see a phone company sell a phone with the message;
“Watch your child fail exams, become socially maladjusted, play on social media and chat with creepy old men online.”
Don’t buy a child a phone that can connect to the internet.
The majority of problems begin when children use their phones to connect to the internet. This is where they are cyber-bullied, or do the bullying. This is where they waste hours scanning vacuous content on social media. This is where they access inappropriate content or meet inappropriate people, and this is where they become passive consumers of mass media.
Tell your child to buy their own smartphone.
If your child insists on owning a smartphone, tell them to pay for the phone and the data themselves.
But my child’s not old enough to get a job.
If your child is not old enough to get a job, maybe they’re not old enough to own a smartphone.
Many children might justify their demands for a smartphone with the safety rationale, but we know children well enough to surmise that their desire for a phone is prompted by peer pressure and status.
“Everyone else has one.” is a phrase many parents will hear thousands of times.
Don’t blame others for your child’s behaviour.
Don’t demand that Teachers protect your child from cyber bullying. Don’t blame the Teacher when your child’s grades, literacy and numeracy start to suffer because they are addicted to their phone and are neglecting their studies. Don’t blame the government for your child’s poor health, and don’t expect society to teach your child to socialise.
Don’t buy your child a smartphone.
Image: Ilan Dov