Parenting in A Cyber-Generation (II)
How to manage kids' usage of mobile phones?
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.
The Scriptures that came to my mind were ...
Now He was also saying to the disciples,
"There was a rich man who had a manager,
and this manager was reported to him
as squandering his possessions.
"And he called him and said to him,
'What is this I hear about you?
Give an accounting of your management,
for you can no longer be manager.'
The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower becomes the lender's slave.
Also see Luke 19:12-13; Matt 25:14-30
I told them that telcos5 can give away free phones because they want you to commit to a plan. A basic two-year plan costs $18 per month x 24 months = $432 for two years or $216 per year.
Sons: We will pay for it!
Sons: Can we use our ang-pows6 for it?
Sons: Then we will pay from our pocket money.
Dad: $18 per month or about $5 per week ... You can't manage that with your weekly allowance of $10 for recess.
I came up with a plan.
Terms and Conditions
- They only have to pay $10 per month + any excess charges for over-usage ... so that they exercise self-discipline in the usage of their mobile phones.
- For every $2 excess charge, they forfeit the use of their phone for one day; $4, two days; subject to a maximum of 14 days. Moreover, there is no credit; in other words they are to pay up with their next week's pocket money as soon as the bill arrives.
- The $10 charge is pro-rated during school holidays as they don't receive pocket money then. For a two-weeks holiday, they pay only $5; for long holidays, they don't need to pay the $10.
- They will pay for upgrades (to the latest models) or replacement of lost phones.
Dad: Do you agree with these terms?
Sons: Do we have a choice?
Sons: Okay, we accept.
In 2001, I subscribed for mobile phones for my two sons when they were in Sec 2 and 1 respectively.
I stuck to this plan even when one of my sons sent more than 2000 SMS for two months. He had to forgo some of his meals to pay for the extra charges and would come home hungry ... and looking for food to eat. It wasn't easy for us to see him losing weight.
If you are concerned about excessive monthly bills then prepaid card is the alternative. However, in this case, you would have to purchase your own phone (a "free" phone usually accompanies a subscription contract). Also note that unit cost per call or SMS is higher for prepaid cards compared with subscription contracts.
5 Telephone companies
6 Red packets containing money given to children during Chinese New Year