A few years back, when my daughter was still a blithe 10-year-old, she yearned for a smartphone. My friends all have one, she would whine. Or the very Asian comparative line of “You know, so-and-so has one, she uses it for her schoolwork too and she’s only nine”.
I ignored these comparisons and even when she argued about the different types of apps that would help her in Math and English, I did not budge.
Our family heard her gripes once at a gathering and it sparked a conversation. “Your parents can put apps to monitor your phone use. It won’t be fun anymore,” said her uncle. “We put apps in your cousin’s phone so when he clicks onto a website or plays a game when he’s supposed to study, the app gets shuts down. Your phone becomes remote controlled.”
We had a good laugh, but I was making mental notes to my future self for the time when it came.
It did come six months later, when managing my daughter’s commute to and from her various activities proved too challenging without a phone. She received a mobile phone as a gift from her grandparents, so we could contact her for pickups after school, track practice and tuition. I researched what apps would allow parental control and immediately installed them.
It may sound extreme, but parents have reason to be concerned about their children’s online safety.
A study in 2018 by DQ Institute, a global think tank for digital intelligence education, found that 54 per cent of Singapore children between the ages of eight and 12 are at risk of cyberbullying, video game addiction, online sexual grooming and even offline meetings.
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