Gender Gender

Should we buy a smartphone for our son?

Dear Raphael and Namukolo,
Our firstborn son is 13-years-old and of late he has been pressurising us to buy him a smartphone claiming that all of his friends at school have got smartphones.

We are reluctant to do so as there is so much abuse of such gadgets by youngsters. On the other hand, we would not want him to be the odd one out at his school. Please advise. J&J.
Dear J&J,
Your dilemma is appreciated and it is one that many responsible parents face on a regular basis. You can add to the list of items like laptops (with access to the internet) and Digital Satellite Television (DSTV). How much access should our children have to such facilities?
We must start by acknowledging that human beings have made great strides in the area of technological development. Technology is now very much a part of our daily lives. Parents who went to school a few decades ago might find it difficult to understand just how much dependent on technology the current generation has become.
So it is not even a question of whether or not our children should be exposed to different technology but how and when.
Parents must play a leading role in introducing their children to various technology. This means that parents cannot afford to be ignorant if they are going to assist their children to use the modern gadgets properly. Let’s take a closer look at smartphones and their usage.
Like the computer, internet and television, the smartphone is a gadget which is morally neutral. It is neither good nor evil in and of itself. It is how it is used that will determine whether it will do good to or harm our children.
Used properly the smartphone can be used for a lot of positive things by school children. For example, it can be used as a tool for research. Literature can be accessed for reading. Mathematical problems can equally be computed. Different hobbies can be explored and acquired. It can also be used as an organizer which can result in the children learning to be better organized in their day to day lives. Good music can easily be accessed and listened to. For Christians, their bibles can sit on and be read from the smartphone. Equally bible study guides; Christian literature; sermons; good music etc. can be heard at the flick of a button.
In addition to being used as a phone there is the social media which if used properly can help young people to share with each other constructive experiences.
The list of potential good that smartphones can be used for is endless.
But unfortunately there is a flip side to the story. Like everything else in this world, because of our sinful nature, every good thing can be abused. And many young people are abusing smartphones.
Smartphones can literally take over the lives of our children. They can become addicted to the point where they fail to comb their hair; brush their teeth; make their beds, do their homework, and let alone do their chores. Social media can contribute to this addiction as the children want to continuously be in touch with their friends.
Instead of good music it can be used to get and listen to very bad music and to watch bad music videos.
Social media can be further used to bully others. Many children in the world have committed suicide after being bullied on social media.
For the boys, pornography is a real big problem. Statistics show that more than half of all pornography in the world is now viewed on mobile devices like smartphones. Like drugs, pornography is addictive and many young lives have been permanently ruined as a result of this scourge.
So should you buy that smartphone for your son or not?
As parents you must take your child by the hand and walk them through this road of technology step by step.
Introduce him to the various good applications on the smartphone before buying it for him. Ensure that he is learning how to use such apps and how to navigate his way around. Equally progressively talk to him about the many bad usage of the gadget. Show him the need for discipline and that there is a time for everything. If it is time to eat, or to do chores, or his homework etc. he must put his phone aside and concentrate on the task at hand.
Let him understand the real danger of pornography and all the other wrong usage. Teach him to equally report any abuse by his friends.
Finally make him accountable for all his actions with respect to the way he uses his Smartphone.
A good church can make a world of difference in your marriage and family.
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