I have succumbed to the “but everybody else has” argument in allowing my two eldest sons to have mobile phones.

According to them, every child eleven years and older owns this important fashion accessory and after a little snap poll it would appear there may be some truth in their argument.

Needless to say that doesn’t justify this obsession with not so much the phone itself but the texting epidemic that must be attacking every family with young teenagers.

My eldest was thirteen when he got his phone. I had anticipated 14 to be a much more suitable age, but relented and have followed the slippery path of giving in by allowing my twelve year old to purchase his own with his birthday money.

Quite clearly from the outset you need to have strict rules around the use of these communication devices; I think I am a bit like Bob Jones whose disdain for mobile phones has been in the news lately. Let’s face it they are yet another distraction and although a means of communication they actually often interfere in our precious family time together.

Some of my friends are horrified that I check my son’s text messages. They see it as an invasion of their privacy. Well I figure that as I pay for it and that they are still minors then I have very right to use every devious method I can to see what they are up to; especially as we are entering the period where soliciting information from a pubescent teenager is virtually impossible.

They know I randomly check their messages, so if they are stupid enough not to delete something they don’t wish me to see then they are the silly ones. From the outset I have advised the boys to be very careful in what they text knowing that I am not the only nosey mother on the planet. Similar to computers and MSN messaging I hammer home the message that nothing should ever be said or written that other people will find offensive.

I have learnt a whole new language; for weeks I was concerned that my son was getting LOL frequently from boys and girls alike. I was soon informed that this translated into load of laughs and not lots of love, so it pays not to jump to conclusions!

‘K g2g lol’ is the usual type of message. For you texting luddites this translates into “okay got to go loads of laughs.” It’s worrying to see this abbreviated language creep into their school work.

We have some house rules surrounding the use of cellphones: we do not allow phones at the dinner table; no phones at bedtime; if you use up your credit, then tough you have to wait until next month; and of course, mum will continue the random checking. If she finds anything untoward then the phone will be confiscated or worse still she might just respond on your behalf and quite possibly that might be the most embarrassing consequence of all!

Communication via the internet and by texting on mobile phones can be extremely dangerous; I have observed that adults and children alike are inclined to say things through cyberspace that they would not say face-to-face. I have seen some pretty foul language and suggestive comments that have caused me concern. It seems to me that the best way to deal with these situations is to tell the boys not to reply and if that fails a terse text reply from moi usually sends a clear message.

As parents we always need to be diligent (which kids probably translate as nosey). For example, we have our computer in the kitchen/dining area so I am always able to monitor the use and content of emails and internet sites.

Please be assured that I will allow them their privacy when they are 21 !!!!!!

I wonder if we could live without mobile phones? Last week I dropped mine in the toilet and I must admit for a short period I felt like I had lost my right arm – but after a while started to appreciate the peace and quiet!

Missed not being able to text the boys and say. Luv u c u soon.

 

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Dame Susan Devoy is New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, and a World Open champion squash player. She's the former CEO of Sport Bay of Plenty and super-mum to four boys.

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