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Mobile Technology

With a mobile population penetration rate of over 150% in Singapore it is not surprising that many, if not all of us own a mobile phone and/or tablet. According to the 2011 Norton Cyber Crime Report, a Singaporean typically spends about 31 hours online weekly compared to a global average of 24 hours.

Do your children constantly check their mobile phones for emails, SMS alerts, news updates etc. even at the dining table? Or feel anxious when they are out of reach of their phone? Or they would rather stay indoors, logged on to their social media accounts than to go outdoors?

With mobile devices and social media becoming a dominant part of our lives, how do you know how much is too much for your children? Learn how to identify the signs that your child is addicted to his mobile device or social media and how you can promote responsible use.

To Give or Not to Give

Living in one of the most connected countries in the world, more and more Singaporean teenagers and even pre-teens these days own smartphones. Smartphones can become objects of envy among pre-teens and teenagers. So, if you have not been asked for one yet, be prepared.

When the time comes, deciding whether to give your children a smartphone or not may be a dilemma for parents. A smartphone does not come cheap and there are monthly phone bills to pay for. But beyond monetary issues, there are other factors that you should consider before giving your child a smartphone.

1. Is my child at the appropriate age to receive a smartphone?
2. Does my child really need a smartphone?
3. How do I foresee my child using the smartphone if I do get him/her one?
4. How much control should I have over his/her smartphone usage if he/she owns one?

 

Advantages

1. Stay connected with your children
We cannot deny the convenience that smartphones bring to our daily lives. If you are working later than expected or if your children have something last-minute that cropped up in school, both of you can easily make a quick phone call or send a short text message to each other at any time of the day via cheap or even free smartphone applications like WhatsApp and Viber.

2. Smartphone as an educational tool
Smartphone applications, compared to assessment books, allow for more engaging and interactive learning. The audio-visual and sometimes even the game-like nature of applications also make learning more fun and lasting. Smartphones can be used as a supplementary learning tool for your children.

3. Teaching the concept of responsibility
Use the concept of responsibility to teach your children about being responsible for their personal belongings. They are likely to put in their utmost effort in ensuring that their phones are maintained in tip-top condition and are kept safely. Yes, the smartphone belongs to them. But you paid for it, so it is reasonable for you to request that they adhere to the guidelines you list down regarding their use of the smartphone.

 

Disadvantages

1. Smartphone-induced sleeplessness
With advancement in technology, smartphones are becoming more and more similar to the traditional personal computers. Users can play games, watch videos, chat with friends, surf the internet, etc. The list goes on. And for this reason, smartphones, particularly the internet, have “created a whole host of temptations for children” and are causing the new generation to give up on their much needed eight hours of sleep1. This bad habit of not getting enough sleep may lead to your children facing serious problems such as lateness, not being able to pay full attention in class and even poor performance in school. More than just a behavioural problem, your children’s unwillingness to sleep can also cause detrimental health issues like heart problems, obesity, diabetes, etc.

1Hooked on internet and in trouble at school

2. Isolation from family

There may be a possibility that your pre-teen or teenage children find the endless activities on the smartphone more interesting than you or the activities that you have planned for them. Before you know it, uncontrolled smartphone usage may lead them to stray away and isolate themselves from the rest of the family. Especially when they are going through puberty, keeping a close relationship with your children through constant communication is important to prevent them from turning rebellious. With the smartphones however, conversations you try to have with your children may be killed – and that is definitely something you do not want to see happening.

3. Shocking credit card bills

In order to download applications, whether they are paid or free, you probably will need to key in your credit card details before you can do so. But we need to be cautious because this required action could lead to the receipt of shocking credit card bills at the end of the month. Although many applications can be downloaded for free, there are often hidden costs involved. For example, the popular game Candy Crush Saga can be downloaded for free. However, players can purchase boosts such as extra lives or moves in order to clear and unlock stages in the games. In light of their competitive spirit, children may sometimes get carried away when they see their other friends getting ahead of them in the game and start purchasing things unnecessarily without your knowledge and consent.

Getting a smartphone is something that most teenagers and pre-teens are likely to ask for sooner or later. While the smartphone brings about many benefits for your children, there are also various disadvantages that may result in undesirable consequences. 

 

Tips for Parents

As a parent, it is therefore important for you to weigh the pros and cons for your children before deciding whether to give them a smartphone or not. Besides that, ask yourself several questions such as:

1. Is my child at the appropriate age to receive a smartphone?
2. Does my child really need a smartphone?
3. How do I foresee my child using the smartphone if I do get him/her one?
4. How much control should I have over his/her smartphone usage if he/she owns one?

Article contributed by TOUCH Cyber Wellness