- Category: Think Tank
- Written by Paida Mpaso
Whether they want to talk to or text their parents or take a look at the latest video game, children below the age of 12 are increasingly using cell phones. This attracts the question; in this age of technology, should parents allow their children, especially those in primary school, to own a cell phone?
Elizabeth Kambalame, an entrepreneur from Namiwawa, Blantyre, says her first-born son started bothering her about owning a cell phone at 10.
“‘Everybody had a cell phone’ he would tell me. And it took a long time for me to give him one,” she says.
Kambalame says a parents-teachers association (PTA) meeting opened her eyes on how children sometimes abuse the freedom they are given to own cell phones and other high-tech gadgets.
“Children really have nothing to communicate. They just want to use up credit. You never know what they are using the phone for in this world where some devises are able to access Internet sites meant for grown-ups,” she says.
Deputy head teacher at St Theresa Primary School in Blantyre, Deston Malewa, says children should not have access to cell phones, especially at school.
Malewa says the phone is not only a distraction but it is also expensive to manage.
“The next thing you will hear a child is stealing money just to buy credit for the phone. I feel there is no need to give a child a phone,” he says.
Sociologist Pierson Ntata says it is difficult to prescribe the age at which a child can be given a cell phone by a parent.
“The most important thing is to look at the sense of responsibility. If, for instance, you have left home and you want to constantly check on the child, then you can give them the phone. But do not just give a phone to a child as they may begin to misuse it,” he says.
Ntata admits that children do not have urgent issues to communicate.
“You see, what they may want to communicate, especially to their friends, can wait for the next day. That is why it is not really advisable to give them phones. In the long run, it might be expensive on the parent’s side,” he adds.
A commentator on family issues, Diston Chiweza, agrees with Ntata that children are bound to abuse a phone.
“Children should not be given phones, I mean for what? Unless they have been given a responsibility, then a parent can do so,” he says.
Chiweza says parents are not always there to monitor their children on their use of the phones.
“Only give a cell phone to your child if he or she starts to display some sense of responsibility. Otherwise, it might be a waste of resources.
“There are also many things that can be accessed on the Internet which your child might be exposing himself to. You know, children are curious and the phones could be distracting them; hence, they may perform badly in class,” he says.