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Son wants cell phone? Think twice before you buy!
Kamiya Jani,
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January 05, 2007

Rahul Mallhotra bought a mobile phone for his 14year-old son so that he could be in touch with him whenever required. But today he realises that the mobile phone is affecting his son's life as a whole. He spends more time talking on the phone or sending text messages rather than with his family.

Kids often try to sweet-talk their parents into buying cell phones on grounds of safety and convenience. But face it! What kids really want to do is text-message their friends, download music or play games.

Moreover, cell phones are not fool-proof. If your kid wants to be difficult, he will be in any case. There is no way for you to find out if he really is at a place he claims to be in. And if he does not want to be reached, he can easily switch the phone off. So don't fall for these talks unless your child is mature, emotionally as well as financially to use the device responsibly.

Emotional maturity matters as much as financial. After all, you don't want your teenage kid to be surfing adult content on the Internet from the convenience of his phone.

As parents however, it may also be very difficult to convince kids against such demands because of peer pressure. Therefore the best thing to do is to buy them one and put in conditions so that they become more responsible. You give a choice so that they know how to compromise. As an ideal parent, what you need to do is allow your kid the luxuries only if they are financially prepared for it.

Explains Zankhana Shah, Certified Financial Planner, "For example, if you buy them a mobile phone, ask them to let go of their pocket money or some other spending like celebrating a birthday." You can take this situation as an opportunity to get your kids financially mature.

In this way, he will be able to take his financial decisions without letting his self esteem go down. The child's emotional management may be affected if all his friends have a phone and he doesn't. Therefore, you ask him to make a choice by which he learns to let go. This exercise indeed makes him mature in all sense.

Agrees P V Subramanyam, financial domain trainer, "Once you buy them a phone, let them decide how efficiently they can use their pocket money by paying phone bills along with other activities like watching a movie, shopping, etc. Teach them money prioritisation, which can be done if you let them take their own financial decisions."

In this way, the child realises that he has to live with his decisions whether they are right or wrong. If parents lead them in every issue, they tend to blame them for everything.

Managing money is all about prioritisation, which may not be only for kids but also for elders. "If you give your kid Rs 1,000 and ask him to pay his phone bill and also get the trendy shoes he has been demanding since a long time, he would automatically cut down on his phone calls to save up money for the shoes," says Subramanyam.

After some point of time, your kid may not listen to whatever you say and thus the best thing is to put in some conditions and let him take his decisions so that he learns with his mistakes and becomes more mature.

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