Growing up is never easy but growing up in the electronic age is much harder.

What is the right age for your child to own a cell phone?

A parenting coach and family therapist, shares what she thinks about children having phones and the influence technology wields on the young minds. Read on…

To buy or not to buy your child a cell phone- now that is the question confronting many parents. More than ever parents find themselves under pressure to buy a cell phone for their child but they may be conflicted and worry that if they do, it might interfere with their child’s school work and limit their physical and social interaction.

But a phone can also be a form of necessity, even though the primary reason most kids want phones is peer pressure and not wanting to be the one kid hopelessly left out in the dark.

Growing up is never easy but growing up in the electronic age is much harder. When it comes to buying your child a cell phone, there is no right or wrong answer- it is entirely up to you.  The type of phone you get and the kind of features it has depend on you as well.  It’s your choice as a parent and it entirely depends on your child’s maturity level and how confident you feel about her following your rules once she has it.

Before you decide to buy your child a phone, consider all the possible ramifications and talk to your child about the serious responsibility that comes with owning a cell phone. Most parents consider getting their child a phone in their preteen and early teen years, usually for security reasons.

Research shows that nearly 75 percent of 12 – 17 year olds have a phone in the United States. This could also be the case in South Africa considering that in most corners tweens and teens are always glued to their screens.

Up until the age of 13, children need intensive parental guidance before they reach the age where they get assimilated to external influence from peers.

Society will always have an agenda for children. Parents should not let that overpower the agenda they have for their children and be intentional at protecting their children. A parent’s absence cannot be justified. Sacrifices have to be made for them to be intentionally present in their children’s lives. This does not mean that one becomes a helicopter parent but intentional parenting and presence makes a lot of difference in the children’s growth.

When children are devoid of something they need to develop to their optimum, they can resort to filling that void with something that works for them, temporarily. Unfortunately, in such a peer-led situation it is a “monkey see, monkey do” situation.

Social media for example, has been used a lot as a tool of attacking others. Even politicians do it. And when the teens see ‘respected’ members of the community use it like that, they will too.

There is no right age for children to own gadgets even for entertainment purposes. Parents should purposefully delay buying their children gadgets until it is absolutely necessary.

There are several programs that can be introduced to occupy their spare time like reading, playing musical instruments and nurturing any of their extra-curricular interests. Children imitate better than they listen and parents are their first role models. If parents introduce anything to them they should get into that program too.

As they come of age, it is vital to wean them slowly into social media. Prepare them for some of the dangers that come with it like cyber-bullying and teach them essentials like ignoring pop-ups which often lead to lewd content.

In cases where a child has already gone wayward, it is best that the child gets help before disciplining. Some flare-ups are a cry for help which should be used as a teachable moment. The parents or any other adult involved in solving the matter should go down to the child’s level and speak with them, with the intention of listening.

It truly does take a village to bring up a child. It is advisable that a child has good relationships with other people close to the parent so that they can have someone to talk to if they feel like they cannot talk to the parent, first.

Bullying is rampant in schools. The first step is that parents need to take the relationships with their children seriously and make them intentional; above all, parents should learn to communicate with their children effectively. Above all, there is no perfect parent but parents have to try and be very intentional with their parenting.

What do you think?

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