Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Tween & Teen Advice


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Are we unable to function or live or breathe without our cellphones? Do we really need to check our messages every ten minutes? Or just get an app that tells you how many calories were in your fried egg and bacon breakfast; or even how many steps you took when you went for a walk with Fido this morning?

Most of the calls we make or messages we sent are not important or even useful. Conveying senseless pics or memes is entertaining, but hardly labels us as intelligent or thoughtful. Who benefits from this over-use of cellphones? This behaviour profits only the cellphone company or network provider. Whilst it is good to want to redistribute your wealth, there are charities who could do with your surplus money more beneficially than MTN or Cell C or whoever you choose.  

We have become addicted to and slaves to our phones. Liberate yourself and your children from the chains of cellphone dictatorship.

Begin in an easy and obvious way: set the example to your children about responsible use of your device. This may mean having to re-educate yourself and adjusting your own lifestyle. The advantage is that it will result in children and teens who are more emotionally present and aware in the company of other real people.

Literae yourself by ensuring that there are times and places when you do not take or make calls. Make your acquaintances aware of the fact that you are not automatically available 24/7. They may think, initially, that you are eccentric, but they will learn to respect your privacy. Start in the obvious place: your car. Yes, that does sound obvious, but so many people talk on their phones or send messages whilst driving. This results in their forgetting to signal before turning or being unable to negotiate a corner with dexterity.

Very few messages are so important that they cannot wait a few hours for you to appreciate them. In fact, it may even give you an air of mystery, a whole new allure, if you don’t respond within thirty seconds to the mindless chatter that passes for communication. People may think that you really do have more important things happening in your world.

Avoid talking on your phone when you are in the bathroom. We all know that the bathroom is Donald Trump’s choice of venue when tweeting, but do you really want to emulate Donald Trump?

Stay away from chatting on your phone when you are in the supermarket. Other shoppers don’t need to know that you cannot choose between Omo and Ariel detergents and have to consult someone at home. Nor do they need to know details of your upcoming divorce or the dreaded visit from your mother-in-law. It may amuse fellow purchasers whilst in the queue, but it makes you sound less sophisticated than you would like to believe you are.

Teach your children the same etiquette and consideration for others. Avoid phone conversations when in public, be it the classroom or your place or worship. It is rude and there are real people around you. 

Leave your phone where you cannot see or hear it when you are eating. This applies to when you are having a snack on your own, sharing a family meal or sitting in a restaurant. The person to whom you are speaking on the phone doesn’t want to hear how twisted your vowel sounds are around a mouthful of Karan Beef. 

Respect the people with whom you are sitting by giving them your attention, not sharing it with your phone.

Encourage your children to turn their phones off after an agreed time at night during the week. This will ensure that they sleep better and are not tempted to receive calls from friends that they will see in the morning.

Some of these rudimentary guidelines will help your teenagers to grow into more empathetic and considerate adults and allow us to disentangle ourselves from the imperative of the phone!

By Tracy Freemantle, Teacher at Pinnacle College Kyalami

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