Beatrice Tonhodzayi — Zimbabweans, being very techno savvy and brand conscious, have latched onto smartphones and tablets as if not having one is not acceptable.
Everybody wants to own one and even if it means getting a fake one. The smartphone wave is what has led to the influx in the exchange of voice, video and images at the touch of a button. Good or bad, no one can deny that smartphones have revolutionised the way we communicate as a society.
Where we used to hire photographers to capture moments, today pictures can be taken and shared with family and friends across the globe in a matter of seconds. Where in the past, video cameras were used to record certain proceedings, with a smartphone one can record an incident and share it with millions of people within seconds. Instead of waiting until one sees their loved one to declare undying love, today I have heard of partners who send each other love voice messages
That probably explains all the sex tapes that have been popping up here and there. Such is the power of the smartphone. It is a computer in one's hand. Even the computer is not as smart as the smartphone. Throw in the tablets and iPads and you have a whole techno crazy community right here in Zimbabwe.
However, I have just been watching the way we relate to and use these gadgets. I cannot help but remember some lyrics to a Hosiah Chipanga song of years ago where he used to sing, Zvinhu zvese pasi pano, hapana chinhu chakaipa, munhu chete pasi pano, ndiye ega akaipa, kana doro rakanaka, haridhaki asina kurimwa . . .
The gist of what Chipanga was singing about was that there is nothing on this earth that is bad, even beer is not bad because one has to drink it in excess for it to intoxicate them. What he was trying to drive home was the point that at some level responsibility lies with human beings on how to use everything that is at their disposal. There is nothing wrong with a bar; it is what one does when at the bar.
There is nothing wrong with jail; you can avoid it by avoiding crime. Thus, there is nothing wrong with smartphones. What is wrong is how we are using them.
I was having dinner with my partner the other night in a restaurant and we were amazed to see a group of people who were sitting across, all busy with their smartphones. No one was talking to each other. We actually had our phones off and out of sight because we had agreed that when we invest in a night out it should be to catch up and talk and basically just have fun. There is not enough time to do that these days. These eight people, however, continued playing with their phones and chewing at intervals. How sad? We could not help but wonder what they were doing there then.
Then the other day my son, who is 10 yeats old came to me and asked if he could take my smartphone to school. I asked him why he needed to take my phone to school and he looked at me and honestly said "mummy I just want to show off, everyone else does." To say I was shocked in an understatement. Of course, I refused and took the opportunity to explain to him that he would not get a phone for at least another five years, if I have it my way. I also told him about the priorities of life and how one should never live for other people, compete with them or want to show off. I told him about values and principles and the rules under my home, which is where he lives -- which say no phones for children.
The incident soon faded from my mind. This past week, however, I attended Drama Night at his school and this is when I was shocked. There were so many smartphones and tablets in the audience. Some parents instead of concentrating were busy on their phones. But what worried me more was the number of children who had these gadgets. Some were playing music, others were playing games, others were showing each other pictures (God knows of what) while others were just showing off as my boy had earlier alluded to.
I could not believe it. When my son spoke about smartphones and how everyone else had one I thought he was joking. But it turns out, he was right. Some primary school children actually have smartphones. Wait a minute, some even have iPads. For me whether it is primary or secondary school, I don't think a school going child needs a mobile phone, what more a smart phone or tablet.
If they should have a phone for communication purposes in high school, then I understand but a smartphone?
A phone that costs a minimum of US$500 for a school going child?
For what? Some argue they need phones that access Internet so they research but surely buying a computer at home is adequate for that?
Let us think twice always, we may make a difference, after all.