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Parenting in A Cyber-Generation


The cyber-world of cable television, computers, the Internet, mobile phones, MP3 players and PDAs1 pose challenges to "baby boomer" parents (we parents who were born between 1946 and 1964; post WWII babies). While many of us are lost in this high-tech world, our "Generation Y" sons and daughters (born between 1982 and 2001) are technologically adept and even claim to be able to multi-task.

I see my sons at home - listening to music on the computer, chatting on MSN Messenger while doing their homework ... all at the same time. I still have doubts as to whether they can really concentrate on more than one task on hand.

"Parenting in A Cyber-Generation" can be easily renamed as "Parenting A Cyber-Generation". In this article, I will share my thoughts on the following questions:

  1. Should kids have mobile or cell phones?
  2. How to manage kids' usage of mobile phones?
  3. Should we deny access to the Internet?
  4. How to monitor kids' surfing on the Internet?
  5. How to deal with kids who spend too much time on SMS2 and chat rooms?

Should kids have mobile phones?

It was in 1994 that GSM3, the first digital cellular system, was introduced in Singapore. Standing at more than 80% of its population, Singapore has one of the world's highest penetration of mobile phones.

Should kids have mobile phones ... assuming that you can afford it?

My sons were in Primary school when they bugged me for a mobile phone? I said, "No" because I see no need for them to have a mobile phone. If they are not in school, they are at home or they would be out with me and/or my wife.

They bugged me again, I said, "No, maybe when you are in Secondary school". So when they are in Secondary school, they bugged me again. I said, "OK if you can give me 10 good reasons why you need a mobile phone."


We can call you

Dad: You don't need a mobile phone for that; there are many public phones available.

Sons: But not all of them accept coins

Dad: OK then I will get you a phone card.

Sons: Er! But sometimes, it is hard to run around looking for a public phone

Dad: Then borrow your friend's mobile phone to call home.

Sons: Yee! (same as "Yucks!")

You can call us

Dad: We hardly need to call you.


We can tell the time

Dad: But you already have a watch.




We can play games

Dad: But you can play games on the computer.

Sons: But you cannot carry a computer with you

Dad: Then bring your GameBoy4 along.

Sons: Dad, it's not the same.

Dad: You want to play games, right? You can play games on your GameBoy!


When they realised they don't have ten good reasons, they came up with more than 10 silly excuses; I can't remember them now but we all had a good laugh.

They bugged me again a few days later. One of them said, "Dad, I really want a mobile phone! Why? It's good for my self-esteem." Jackpot!

That's the real reason. Teenagers want to look hip and cool in the eyes of their friends. Having a mobile is part of that image. Though I see possessions (including a mobile phone) as a shaky foundation for self-esteem, I acknowledge their feelings.

Quietly I decided to grant their desire. But I was concerned about the stewardship of owning a mobile phone and that my boys understand the kind of financial commitment involved in owning a mobile phone.


1 Personal Digital Assistants

2 Short Message Service. Text messages that can be sent and received via the mobile network operator's message center to your mobile phone, or from the Internet, using a so-called "SMS gateway" website. If the phone is powered off or out of range, messages are stored in the network and are delivered at the next opportunity.

3 Global System for Mobile Communications. GSM is the name of a land mobile pan-European digital cellular radiocommunications system.

4 Nintendo handheld game device




Should kids have mobile phones? © Dec 2004 Alan S.L. Wong