With landlines fading, fewer opportunities to learn phone manners, sharing and other grown-up skills have taken a back seat.
Nearly 80 per cent of households no longer have landlines and instead rely on their cellphones for all their work. Parents, especially of younger children, often find themselves sharing handsets to sometimes relay messages or use it as a distraction.
Judith Among, a mother of two, says her son loves mobile phones so much, that she believes he is a phone addict. When she gets home, it is the first thing he picks from her bag to play video games.
“At first I did not know what he did with the phone which made me suspicious. I was also afraid of him accessing my gallery and seeing x-rated pictures. I kept deleting all the sensitive things and when he picked it without me sieving the content therein, I would pick it from him,” she says.
In spite of these hiccups, Among is happy that her son’s curiosity has kept her in check as she is sensitive with the kind of content that is stored on it. Among says unlike landlines which encouraged transparency, smartphones though trending, expose children to several threats.
“If a parent has the urge to share their phone with a child, then there is need to monitor them closely or better yet are options. For example, you can sit close to the child while he or she is using the phone or better still you can put locks on the applications you do not need the child to access on your phone,” she advises.
Simon Kalule, a father of a three-year-old, agrees that sharing handsets requires setting boundaries on its usage.
“I don’t mind sharing my phone with Kayla [his daughter]. I ensure that before she plays with it, she is seated on the mat. She also knows that when a call comes through she gives the phone to daddy,” he says.
Kalule says the spirit of sharing has helped his daughter relate well with peers.
Lawrence Kaija on the other hand disagrees vehemently. He says, “This whole sharing with my children a phone business breeds familiarity.”
He says such behaviour is a platform for family conflict because it is hard to tell who has rights over the phone.
But Kalule argues that sharing phones strengthens the bond between a child and the parent. Such a child finds it easy to share their challenges with their parents.
Rosemary Katengeke a teacher and counsellor at Pearl Africa School, Kabalagala says children have greater desires to have phones for specific reasons but a parent permitting the child is another issue all together.
“There are children grow right from childhood loving phones because as babies, their parents gave them phones just to keep them absent minded so they could be able to keep them silent as they carried out their tasks,” says Katengeke.
“You find such children will always have access to their parent’s phones because this has been a routine since childhood and they find it hard to change so such a child will find it fine to share a phone with his or her parents,” Katengeke adds.
She advises parents to set limits when it comes to phones because they are the most sensitive possessions a parent has not just in terms of being delicate but also the content that may not be good for the child’s consumption unless the parent is extremely cautious.
Henry Nsubuga, a counsellor at Makerere University, says children should have phones basically for communicating. He discourages parents from sharing phones with their children saying this breeds disrespect because a child will have so much knowledge of the parent’s dealings.
He adds that parents who cannot keep away their phones from children to at least put passwords.
“It is not because a parent has something wrong he or she is doing on phone but just for you to teach your child to respect other people’s property. This is necessary because a child who does not have respect for your personal belongings may think it is fine to tamper with everyone else’s belongings, which is indiscipline,” he cautions.
Many parents who miss having “some sense of who was calling your child, or trying to reach your child” will find this a great substitute.