Thursday, September 28, 2006

Puberty's potent mixture

Parent and child - parent tend to have problems with their growing children, particularly when their children enter puberty. Not only do they change physically, but they also become independently minded, desiring their own personal private space.

Just the other day, my sister-in-law mentioned how her eldest daughter (about 15 years old) seemed not to want to listen to her anymore. Somehow, a communication gap has developed. Instead, the child would lock herself in her own room on end, and this has gotten the mother quite worried. Like Mr Felix Kumar's (a pseudonym used by a parent in his letter to Today) child, this niece has had the best upbringing any child would want - loving parents, good exam grades, a room of her own, being ferried to and from school by private car, two overseas holidays a year (the last was to Japan), and a family of Christians.

I will not attempt to psycho-analyse here. My profession lies elsewhere, so many people are much more qualified to comment. But I do want to take up the issue about girls, or even boys, getting to know people on the internet through chatlines, messaging, etc. and subsequently establishing some sort of liaison with them, whether virtual or physical.

First, the internet is real, it is here, and it cannot be ignored. So parents should introduce the internet to them, and perhaps teach them how to use it. More often than not, their children will learn more from their friends in school. But there is one thing that you must repeatedly tell them within the context of their experience, and that is that the internet is full of trickery, dishonesty and yes, malicious people. You must drum into your child the fact that you cannot trust what you see or read on the internet, especially in chats, messenger messages and e-mails. You can never know if the messenger who claims to be 20 is not actually a 50 year-old paedophile prowling the net. In this digital world of ours, photos and videos can be faked. I have told my son often not to trust anything or anybody they encounter on the internet. The rest must be a judgement call that he must make on further corroboration with fellow students, trusted adults and teachers (nah, they won't ask the parents) if a website and its contents are alright. In fact, I am not surprised that my son learnt about key-loggers from his friend, which I subsequently corroborated. So the first order of things is to inject a healthy dose of scepticism about the internet while introducing them to its wonders.

Second, if you need to give your child a handphone, get them a pre-paid card instead of a monthly plan. Yes, pre-paid card rates are generally higher per minute of talktime, and it doesn't come with 'free' talktimes. But honestly, tell me if it has been any easier on your pockets with those 'cheaper' subscription plans? Pre-paid cards come with a sufficient number of free SMS which the child can get by without engaging in frivolous messaging. So far, after 3 months, I have not had to top up on the initial $18 pre-paid card that I got for my son.

Well, maybe it is still early days for him, and for me. My son hasn't reach puberty, but I am mentally prepared for it. Whether this is enough remains to be seen.

1 comment :

ponga said...

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