When I heard about a 13-year-old boy who was robbed of his iPhone 5s at knife-point, my first thought was not that the robber was a coward for preying on children.
It was, "Wow, a 13-year-old is using a more expensive phone than I am."
In two separate court cases yesterday, it was heard that five students, aged 12 to 14, were robbed of branded smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Sony Xperia, each costing several hundred dollars.
Several friends of mine who have children of that age say it is common for them to have fancy phones.
My question is: Why?
I can understand parents wanting their children to have a mobile phone so that they can call them in case of emergencies.
If that is the case, you can get a $40 no-frills phone which does the two things your child will need it for - make calls and send text messages.
I do not see why a child would need a phone which allows him to check Facebook or play Angry Birds while in school.
Some friends say they use the smartphone functions to help them track the movements of their children via the device's location services. Fair enough, but that is more of a trust issue than an emergency-needs issue.
Schools seem to be more tolerant now of students having gadgets in class, so long as they do not use them during lessons.
When I was in primary and secondary school, you were not allowed to bring anything remotely expensive or gadget-like to school, such as handheld electronic games (Casio's Western Bar was the iPad of its day) and Sony Walkmans.
The reason? Bring an expensive item to school and someone might steal it.
It also fosters a sense of materialism at a young age, with the children wanting an expensive gizmo just because their friends flash them around in class.
My son, who is in Primary 1, does not have a phone.
And he is not likely to get one as long as he takes the school bus to and from school because he is not going to need one.
"Need to call Daddy urgently? Tell the teacher or the school bus uncle and they'll sort it out," I tell him.
Despite robbery cases like these, there will still be parents who would not mind splurging on the latest phones for their children.
To their peers, these items may signal affluence and fashion. But to the criminals watching, they are easy targets with a big payoff.
This article was first published on June 26, 2014.
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